How Much Room Do You Really Need?

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It was a simple statement of fact, but I was fascinated with his observation. The architect wasn’t attempting to place a value judgment on it. He stated as a matter of record: “This past year has been the year of small houses.” He may have referred to them as “little houses”, but I think he used the term small. Either way, you get the drift. It should be obvious to everywhere that: “We’re not taking about a lot of extra space”. We’re talking about small houses.

 

My first thought was: “You’ve got to be kidding me”. I’ve seen the “tiny houses” on HGTV that some folks use as makeshift homes. It’s not that I think size really matters, but the General and I need more space than 350 square feet. I might call it a fun excursion over a weekend, but to call it home for months at a time would be extremely stressful. It’s not that the General and I are incompatible, but sharing a jail cell kind of existence is not what I signed on for when I promised til’ death do us part. On the other hand, if we were forced to share a space that small, it might be a catalyst for heaven only knows what.

 

It has been nine years, but the General and I took an 18-day Mediterranean cruise. Our room on the cruise line was about the size of a tiny workspace cubicle. It was very small. I really had some anxiety about our sharing a space that small. For eighteen nights, we shared space that was so tight you could hear the sound of the other breathing during the night. Fortunately, we had day trips scheduled for every port. Otherwise, we’ d have gone stir crazy. At least that is true of me. The General probably would have deferred to reading a book and been perfectly content. I’m the guy who needs a little more space.

 

Maybe the underlying fear is that someday I’ll occupy a very tiny space in a nursing home. If I get a vote, it isn’t going to happen. I’ll take up skiing black diamonds before I voluntarily agree to that regime and I’ll take few precautionary measures.

 

The architect talking about the small houses went on to say that many of his customers are highly skilled professional younger people with families. It is just that for whatever reason, they have different priorities than the generation before them. They are content having a home under 4,500 square feet.

 

Okay, so my interruption of a small house and what the architect had in mind were extremely far apart. He definitely was not talking about the “tiny houses” I’ve seen on HGTV. I doubt that I’d ever consider a home just under 4,500 square feet as small. In fact, the General and I have never lived in a home that large. Our last home in Midland was 4,200 square feet and for all practical purposes, it wasn’t. We didn’t need that much space.

 

Almost as an after thought, the architect added: “They are not a generation that want to tie up all of their disposable income in housing? Why not give yourself some breathing room financially and carve out time for travel, entertainment and setting something back for a rainy day?

 

Wow! I guess it gets back to one’s frame of reference. Having grown up in the non-profit world where folks don’t evaluate success by ownership of a summer home, winter home or stately mansion in the right neighborhoods, I wouldn’t be apt to describe a 4,500 square foot home as small. If it falls short of ostentatious, I’d say it is clearly in the category of subtly ostentatious. Who’s to say? When it comes to housing, does size matter?

 

Back in the summer the General and I had the opportunity to visit the Boldt Castle in Alexander Bay, New York in the Thousand Island region. When it comes to housing, the Boldt Castle represents the epitome of a grand ole home. Unfortunately, it was never actually home to anyone.

 

In the early 1900s, it was the intent of George C. Boldt, a multi-millionaire and proprietor of New York City’s luxurious Walforf Astoria and owner of Philadelphia’s Bellevue-Stratford Hotel to create a summer home for his wife. He wanted the home to be representative of his love for his wife. Nothing was too good for her. Consequently, size and opulence coupled with extravagance was the framework for all the building blocks. By any stretch of the imagination, it was not a “small home”.

 

It was Boldt’s intent to build a full-size replication of a castle he had seen along the Rhine River in Germany during his childhood. It fully met the definition of a dream home. You might even use the word “castle”. The structure was six stories and contained 120 rooms. By anyone’s definition, it would fall into the category of a very large home.

 

Sadly, Louise Boldt died unexpectedly in 1904. Boldt ordered construction to cease and he never returned to the island and the castle. Seventy years later it was donated to The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The castle has now been mostly restored and it definitely falls into the category of extravagant and opulent.

 

Point in place, my architect friend and I could probably both agree that it is a very large home. I’m not buying the concept that a home just under 4,500 square feet falls into the category of small.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

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