This Space for Rent

Modern design is borged by the megamansion

I've been planning, for about a year now, to design and build myself a summer house (or escape house if I can convince my family that it's time to flee to a free country), and as a side-effect I've been randomly buying house design/house construction magazines to poach ideas from.

Well, I've gotten some good ideas for building techniques; I have not gotten any good ideas for house designs, because most of the house designs that I've seen suffer from a pretty severe case of elephantitis.

A case in point in the "Home and Studio under one roof" design in the October issue of "fine" homebuilding. It seems like a nice-enough design; a little two bedroom house with a basement, a two-story-tall living room, a parlour, and a library/studio, all nicely wrapped in corrugated steel sheathing and a huge glassed in area in the center of the house (where the living room is). A little further investigation led directly to the floorspace of this house, which turned out to be, um, 3000 square feet.

it would be better if it was half this size
A cozy house if you're Godzilla.

It turns out that the smallest rooms (modulo the 3 (or 4) bathrooms, none of which happen to actually be on the ground floor) in this house are 16 x 20 (or 18 x 24; the floor plans in the magazine wisely didn't give dimensions, so I have to measure off a dinky little scale on the page.

The festival of horrors then started to roll on in.

  1. The house is only a two-bedroom house because they stuffed a bedroom into the basement.
  2. The living room (which they call a dog-run, after the southern dog-run house style) isn't heated. It's not a proper dog-run, because it's enclosed, but it makes up for it by splitting the house into two pieces, so if you want to go from the dining room to the parlour, studio, or second bedroom, you have to walk through a nice freezing icebox for 4 months of the year.
  3. There are no bathrooms on the ground floor. If you're invited over for a dinner party, you get to walk into a bedroom or go out into the laundry room and use the toilet there.
  4. Ditto for hanging your coats, because there is no ground floor closet space.
  5. Oh, and that second bedroom? It's in the basement. Of this 3000 square foot house.
  6. And that 3000 square feet? It doesn't include the 30x30 garage.

One thing I'm pretty curious about is just what do you do with a 16x20 bedroom? Beds aren't that big; a king bed is up to 6x7 feet, which leaves you with 278 square feet, which, at least in the photos of this gigantic house, contain absolutely nothing except air. These days when I look at a megabedroom like that, my first instinct is to split the room in two and make part of that space into an office or sitting room, so one half of a couple can stay up and read for a while after the other half turns into a pumpkin for the night.

Our house is marginally larger than this house, but it's got 4 bedrooms (one sacrificed as a library) and an entire unused floor that we could easily convert into two more bedrooms if I win the lottery and the Evil Party is driven irrevocably out of power. This house, in all of its 3000 square feet (plus garage) wouldn't even fit on our "100x50" (a 20x50 stripe has street and sidewalk built on it, so it's not really usable land anymore) lot in the city, but it's only got two bedrooms. I've drawn 3-bedroom houseplans that could fit into the living room of this house, and which have easily half the floorspace of this huge waddling behemoth.