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Tips for Building Smaller Homes, Greener Homes

I recently spent the month in Mexico, in a 900 sq. ft. apartment with my husband and two young boys. Our house in Madison is around 1700 sq. ft. with extra space in the basement and the 2 car garage for storage. Surprisingly enough, it is wonderful living in a smaller space. I was a bit worried at first yet right away I started discovering more and more reasons to embrace and love it. A couple of months ago I was talking to my dear friend Sonya Newenhouse who is in the midst of building a modular home in Viroqua WI and I told her my biggest concern in moving to smaller space with two growing boys is winter time. Here in Mexico we spend many hours outside and that is probably part of the reason I don't notice the claustrophobic feeling that we get in the middle of winter when the kids have a lot of energy and are bouncing off the walls wishing they could go out and play. Here are some great tips for ways to embrace and create large living in small spaces.

Creating Space with Less Square Footage

Although a high ceiling, larger mirror, and natural light make a modest bathroom feel larger, actually cutting square feet from a home is more difficult than it sounds. Here are a few "small ideas" to make a small green home more functional and attractive.

Add Inches to Height: Instead of eight foot ceilings,  have nine foot ceilings. This keeps small rooms from seeming cramped. 

Eliminate Attics: The usable space under the attic can be used for visual appeal, conditioned storage, and loft space.

Eliminate Halls: Halls take up space that can be used for storage or larger rooms. Traffic patterns can cross rooms. 

Separate Space: Rather than building walls, separate spaces with changes in materials or ceiling height., Furniture, such as a bookcase perpendicular to a wall, also separates space without a wall.

Eliminate Formals: Do you use a parlor or a formal dining room more than a few times a year? Plan a larger kitchen or use two separate sitting areas within one living area. A living-dining area with a small, windowed breakfast nook in (or off) the kitchen adds visual space and usability to both rooms. When not eating, use the breakfast nook for homework or use the dining table for games and extra seating for guests.

Use Space Under Roof Peak: Look for a small second story under the peak of the roof. It costs less than first-story space because it uses far fewer resources to build.

I hope these are useful tips as we all learn to challenge how we live and be aware of our habits. I encourage you all to follow Sonya's videos and track the progress of her home. There is so much to learn. We also have many more tips on our website and encourage you to send us your tips, thoughts or ideas for sustainable living in your home and community.

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