In the aftermath of Katrina, designer Marianne Casuto developed the Katrina Cottage. Have you seen these cool structures?
They are stunning. They are compact, efficient, and beautiful. And guess what? They are available for purchase. In a classic case of cool design creating demand, Casuto and a team of designers expanded the line, and the plans are available for purchase.
How did this happen? Why did something created as emergency housing expand beyond its intended use? While there are no absolute answers, there are theories. First of all, good design transcends necessity. These houses are pleasing to the eye, and there is no reason emergency shelter should be unattractive. (Fans of FEMA trailers? Just skip this post.) Second, it seems that people are starting to question the axiom that bigger is better. The original Katrina cottage was 300 square feet. Could you live in that space? How about using it as a guest cottage or vacation residence? What about clustering several on a small lot for a multiple family residence? If you have a nice chunk of property, you can add more cottages as needed. Wouldn't it be easier to be married if each person had their own living space? Maybe with a communal cottage in the middle? Three cottages would still be only 900 sq feet, and you'd still be able to move about, have privacy, and share space whenever you want. (Shipping containers would work for this too!)
Continuing on that theme, check out this Remodelista post showcasing an efficient and small house that was built with the intent of eventual expansion. Oh yeah, and the cost came in at $117 / square foot. That is pretty affordable, nay, reasonable and smart. You don't over-build now or over-commit now. You do pay what you can afford now and expand when you decide on what you need. It's flexible space! And, it sounds simple, but the lure of consumption is great. (Speaking as one who has succumbed one too many times.)
If you are curious about living in a small house - a well-designed small house - perhaps you would like to meet Marianne Casuto? She will be in Portland for a book signing at the Better Living Show March 23 at 1 p.m.
Portlander Nancy Ranchel is a self-described accountant, design fan, serial re-modeler, compulsive re-user and blog writer.