SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL – Part 1
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
This post is a bit of construction advisory and a personal witness, rolled into one.
Here I affirm:
to live simply (so that others can simply live)
Whatever happened to the expression “welcome to my humble abode?”
As a professional carpenter with a background in energy efficiency, recently I heard about a retiring couple building a 5000 square foot home. That’s a sizable structure – expensive to heat or cool, let alone build and maintain. And especially for two people! A price tag of a million dollars was bandied about.
In the past few decades mega-houses have become more the norm, and not just for the Hollywood crowd. To quote Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn – “The trouble with normal it always get worse.”
An example from a century ago is the Gamble House in Pasadena, California. At 8,200 square feet this residence is an outstanding (albeit colossal) example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. Designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company, it has a stunning and intricate interior.
In 1973 the economist E.F. Schumacher wrote: “What I wish to emphasize is the duality of the human requirement when it comes to the question of size: there is no single answer. For his (or her) different purposes, (hu)man(s) need many different structures, both small ones and large ones . . . Today, we we suffer from an almost universal idolatry of gigantism. It is therefore necessary to insist on the virtue of smallness, where this applies.” (pg. 54 Small is Beautiful)
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright stated in 1954: “Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms, in simple times or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple, a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.” (pg. 188 A Natural House) Thankfully, in many urban centers and rural countryside’s throughout the world, the alternative vision to bigger is better is being humbly and whole heartedly embraced. Here is a North American segment of that story:
Recently I replaced a deteriorating window of a clients bathroom . . .
The couples beach home is 1000 square feet. Frequently entertaining out of town guests, they had difficulty accommodating them. 6 years ago they approached me to build a guest cabin.
They suggested an intimate size of 16’ x 20’. I advised that this was too small and recommended a minimum of 16’ x24’
After my clients joked that guests would overstay their visit if they became too comfortable, we came up with a workable compromise:
16’ x 22’on the main floor, a cozy sleep loft that includes two additional beds and a 6’ x16’covered deck .
At 352 square feet, the final price was about $70,000 or about $200 per square foot.
It would have cost less if not for the tiled Mexican shower . . .
I laid in the concrete base and the glass block, and did all other construction work except for electrical. The tiling was contracted out.
Notice my truck loaded with evergreen tree limbs, pruned off to allow more daylight into the site.
Heading home after a hard day at the office . . .
“Examine each question in terms of what it ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.” Aldo Leopold
END OF PART 1