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12 September 2009 @ 11:33 am
How much space is too much space?  
I've always hoped to move out of this house into something newer, better laid out and larger. I've begun looking, though we still have no clue what we could sell this house for, so it's all still a lot of window shopping.

One of the hits in my search is 3,920 sq. ft. of living space. I think this is too much. That rooms would just collect clutter and our heating would be more of an issue (it also has two kitchens, which I don't really want any more.) But I was wondering what other people thought. The way the pictures show it, they have kind of a party area with a bar and pool table. (This house is still extremely tempting, since it's with in walking distance of a lake which I believe has swimming!!!)

On one hand, I collect a lot of stuff and would love a library, music room, craft room and shop, but on the other hand, Greg and I tend to spend most of our time in one or two rooms. Part of wanting to upgrade is to reduce our heating costs and get rid of some of the problems of owning house which has a lot of maintence issues.

Anyone have any sage advice. Part of the problem is I don't have a good feel for square footage. We were recently shocked to learn we'd been lied to when we bought this house. They had told us ~1,800 sq. ft. when we're actually ~1,500.

On the other hand, I'm trying to decide if 1,900 sq. ft. would be enough for us. We really hope that this will be our one and only move, as long as Greg's work stays in the area, so we want to plan for a house that will suit us for a long time (but with still no plans of kids.)
 
 
 
Podpeople. Benevolent podpeople. That's my theory.vibrantabyss on September 12th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
Whether or not you plan to use an agent, give surrealestate a shout. I'm sure she'd be happy to speak with you and offer advice on sizing. As a great buyer's agent, she is good at listening and finding space that works for the way people plan to live and play in it. Do you want an expansive home theater area? Do you mostly have only a few folks over, but have to be able to throw one 40 person party once every other year?

There is a pile of difference between a 1600 sq. ft. place with a full basement for storage and an 1800 sq. ft. place that includes a built-out basement. A well laid out 1800 is better than a poorly laid out 2200. I'd consider 4,000 to be ginormous for two people. Suitable if I wanted a pool table, a bar, a woodshop, a fireworking shop, and two or three other special-use rooms.

I grew up in houses that were 2,500+ for a family of three, so small used to seem odd. I've friends in Italy and Germany that have places sub 1,600 (and one sub 1200) for families of 4+, and their spaces work just fine.



Edited at 2009-09-12 04:28 pm (UTC)
Pipamama_pipa on September 12th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
doing househunting myself, sqft alone can only tell you how much you are going to pay in heating costs, not whether its going to be enough room. layout is EVERYTHING

Podpeople. Benevolent podpeople. That's my theory.vibrantabyss on September 13th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
Eh, even on heating sq ft alone is not all that useful... Insulation varies hugely across building ages. High ceiling Victorians have more air to heat than others of the same footage, and then there is furnace efficiency.
Nathannathanw on September 12th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Personally, I would love to have a space that could be turned into a nice bar, but I know that's not for everybody.

For crap-storage and workspace purposes you need to look at the "unlivable" space (basements, unfinished attics) as well as the livable space; also keep in mind that livable space on the top floor is often measured strangely because only floor area with more than 6 feet or so of height counts. I wonder if that accounts for some of the 1800 vs. 1500 discrepancy? (Heck, according to the assessor's database, there's ~400sf of difference there just in your attic. I haven't seen your attic - does it feel more like 100sf or 500sf?)

Is the 3920 with two kitchens set up such that it could be turned into two units, and still have more space in the one you live in than you have now? Is that at all interesting? Renters, in-law apartment, etc.

The layout does matter a lot. Have you thought about how many rooms your uses would need? 1900sf could be too much or not enough, depending on if it's carved into three bedrooms and two attic pseudo-bedrooms, or if it's all dedicated to a giant living room or kitchen. Our previous apartment was a good case study in how to have plenty of space but still feel cramped.

That said, 1900sf sounds like a lot to me; we live in a ~1000sf unit now, and our housing search is mostly hitting things in the 1100sf-1500sf range. The one house we're currently lusting after is about 1700sf, with a lot of unlivable storage/workspace, and we're not quite sure what we'd do with it all if we got it.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on September 12th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
I think having renters would be part of my personal hell. Greg and I both like having the house to ourselves and the idea of being a landlord would be horrible.

Interesting about the 6ft thing. We were recently looking at their calculations to see how they got their numbers and they did multiply the attic space mysteriously by .75.

I would kind of like 8-10 rooms, I think, but one of those "rooms" can be an unfinished basement or heated garage. (bed room, kitchen, living/TV room, computer room, reading room (can be very small), project room/music room, shop, dinning room, exercise room) and somewhere for the pinball machine to be happy.

Binkbinkbink on September 12th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
See if you have heating zones or can create them, then you can have colder rooms for your crafts, for instance and only keep the family room and your bedroom warm.

For someone with lots of activities, such as yourself, 2,000 sqft is ok but you would find the 4,000 sq ft easier to keep tidy if you could afford it.
Layout matters too. Mother's house was over 2,000 sqft but it didn't seem huge and mine is less than 1400 but seems to have more room because it has more rooms. The rooms are smaller and feel cramped though.

So not strictly square feet but do you have room for your bed and dresser (and what else) in your bedroom, do you have a craft room you can close the door on when it gets messy, can you set up your chop saw where there is enough room to swing a board, is there enough storage in the kitchen (mine has more storage than many much larger kitchens), is the basement usable, damp, or missing, is the garage big enough to store your outdoor equipment, how much lawn will need to be mowed, etc.

Picture where you will put things and don't forget the mundane like trash waiting to go to the street, the kitchen waste, kitty litter, all the computing environment, the entertainment center opposite the sofa, laundry (clean and dirty), cleaning supplies, etc.

I thought I didn't need a basement--I was very wrong.
Binkbinkbink on September 12th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)
It seems standard here (though I don't know about there) to be able to ask to see last year's water, power, and heating bills.
SPIM the Pipelined Reindeerdzm on September 12th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
My parents' house (outside of San Diego) is over 3400 square feet, I think, and it feels *huge*. When I'm visiting I feel like I never leave the kitchen third of the house, which also includes the guest room. (The middle third is the living/dining room; the far third is the master bedroom/bathroom/closet complex and office.) When they and we both bought our houses, and we had two tenants, they had twice as much space for half as many people. It was kind of insane.

Even our current 1700 is almost a little too much for just the two of us, though we have been trying to keep the amount of random crap in our lives down. We do have the flexibility to redo rooms one at a time and just not go into them when their project winds up stalled for six months, which at least is nice. I could definitely see something smaller feeling very cramped, particularly if you did have more stuff or wanted to take part of the house out of service for whatever reason.

If I was going to try to rearrange things, I'd want more "uncounted" space for workshop, greenhouse, model railroad, bike shop sorts of applications. We could probably shuffle the basement into "enough" space if we really wanted to and were willing to get rid of more stuff.
Jeredjered on September 12th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
I consider the number of rooms more than the square footage, because that relates more to how you will use it. I've seen 3000 sq. ft. homes that feel cozy, and 1800 sq ft. homes that feel huge.

Keep in mind that measured square footage often includes space that is not currently usable.

As a point of comparison, our house (which I think you've been to a party?) could be considered 3,900 sqft, but it's not really that much space when you break it down:
1st floor: ~1226 sqft, but all the rooms open onto each other with pocket doors
2nd floor: ~1100 sqft, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms (1 large)
attic: ~286 sqft, 2 rooms, finished, but we use it for storage and a guest bedroom
basement: ~1464 sqft, all the pipes are out of the way so the ceilings are high, but most of the rooms haven't been finished yet, but could be.

I would like to have more rooms, if not more space, which means that I need to get around to the basement sometime, because there's no space for projects. When we work on costumes for burning man, the dining room turns into a sewing room, which isn't helpful (well, if we had large formal dinners, it wouldn't be.) The attic rooms are full of junk. I guess they could be used for projects.

What's the layout of the potential new place? Go take a walk through. Don't base decisions on square footage numbers.
Binkbinkbink on September 13th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Officially, the square footage isn't supposed to include bathrooms, closets, stairwells, basement, and the like, so you can have two houses with the same square footage and considerably different usability.
The height of the ceilings matters too. If I had normal ceilings I could have taller bookcases, for instance, and lower ceilings feel more cozy (read: cramped) for the same room size.
The height of the windows affects space. It they are higher than a sofa, you can put the sofa against them, else that wall space isn't useful. Radiators, baseboard heaters, vents, etc., can affect the usefulness of a wall, too.
Watch for features you will want to keep. (Note that half of two walls in the eagle room are useless higher than 3 feet.)
A bungalow has twice the basement of a two story, so for the same square footage, you can count 1/3 more useful space. A further reduction or basement size can be seen in a 3 story.
You have so many projects though, I recommend getting as big as you can afford, with as many rooms as possible. As folks mentioned above, having an unused space to move things too, make working on the house much easier too. As an example, remember the trouble we had getting the furniture out of my room to put the carpet in.
The ideal would be enough space to put everything you use for crafts and projects, storage, pets, housekeeping (supplies, laundry, etc.) and still have a living room, dining room, and kitchen as spartan as my mother's, with seating, entertainment, and little else.

And make sure you get 200Amp service.
Binkbinkbink on September 13th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
Dang! I proofread that.
reduction or basement == reduction of basement
to move things too, == to move things to,
sauergeeksauergeek on September 14th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC)
As someone who grew up as part of a family of 5 in a house that was about 1,000 sq.ft. (plus a full basement), 1,900 sq.ft. should be plenty for the two of you :)

That said, I live by myself in a condo with 1,100 sq.ft. It's about the right size.

If you're specifically looking to cut heating costs, make sure that anyplace you're considering has zoned heat, or can be easily converted to zoned heat. Being able to turn the heat down in an unused area of the house can make a big difference.

3,920 sq.ft. will be enormous, and generate ludicrous amounts of kipple. Also remember: moving is a great time to dekipple.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on September 14th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
My understanding about space is that if you like to go out a lot, you need less space, because your entertainment is out side, your gym is out side, your hobbies are outside. Greg and I like to stay in and I have a lot of hobbies.

And yes, I collect a lot of cruft (or kipple) which I know to be a problem. I'm trying to sell my instruments, but I'm horrible at selling things. I should work harder at that, but even that won't mean that I still won't have anywhere to build taiko stands that's actually a very good space at doing so or that the weight machine, which greg uses every day, sits in our living room.
Natashahoneyartichoke on September 15th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
For comparison - our old house in Malden was 1350 sqft, with 6 heated rooms, one unheated mudroom. Our new house in Cambridge is two family. Our upstairs unit has 1240 sqft on the second floor with 6 rooms, and on the third floor it's a ~300 sqft finished room, and the rest is semifinished attic (~1000 sqft) - currently it's storage and band room. One of our ideas is to eventually finish the rest of the attic, put in some dormers, and that would give us a second bathroom and two more rooms - the possibility for expansion is something that attracted us to the house. The place also has a porch which i want to enclose and turn into a crafts room (at least crafts storage in winter), a full basement - totally unfinished, but space for a workbench and powertools! And a detached 2-car garage, will probably fit 1 car, plus gardening and yard stuff, plus bikes.

So far it's been 2 months since we moved - i don't feel nearly settled in yet, but main rooms are good - living room, kitchen, bedroom, computer room/office (is a mess but functional). Then there are some rooms that just haven't gelled yet - right now i feel like there is more space than i need, but then i'm not even fully unpacked. I like the layout a lot, although we don't spend much time on the third floor so far - not sure if it's because of unpacking or layout though ;-) most of our time seems to be spent in the living or computer room. anyway, hope you can come to our housewarming party, or come visit another time to get another datum on space vs square footage.
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on September 15th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping I can too, but I have two taiko performaces (one Friday one Saturday) that weekend and the one on Saturday I ahve to get up at 7am for, so I might be compeltely dead tired. I really want to come though.