I was at dinner this weekend with an architect friend and the topic of space and it’s use in residential settings came up. We both are usually involved in the design of second homes but we were actually conversing about primary residences and the connection between green design and size. I have seen houses pitched as “environmentally friendly” and square footage 5000 plus which is a seemingly conflicting statement. How much space do we really need or even use in the heating and cooled spaces of our homes? Is bigger really better? When I was in NYC last month, I met an architect who lives in SOHO who told me her apartment was where she slept but the city was her dining and living rooms. A guy I met recently said he doesn’t really want a big house, he would rather have a couple of really great small places ..one in the mountains and one at the beach. A well designed small residence with good light and great use of both indoor and outdoor spaces is a better choice for the environment. I stayed in Yoga Shala Tulum last year [my good friend Ines is there now!] and this place is off the grid providing the basics with a million dollar front yard!
A few years ago, I joined my sister,who was in language school down in Flamingo, Costa Rica, for the summer. We took the jeep south to Playa Avellanas so I could show her the perfect surfing beach and these amazing casitas, Las Avellanas Villas. They were built on land owned by Isabel Amador, a photographer, and her brother, Alejandro, an industrial engineer and visionary for the project. They are contemporary- designed small buildings with a garden that functions as a biological corridor.
Each house has an indoor shower open to the sky as well as an outdoor shower.
I read about this guy, John Wells, who lives off the grid in southwest Texas. In his other life, he lived and worked in NYC as a fashion photographer and at one time an assistant to Bruce Weber. In 2007 he left this life to start the Southwest Texas Energy and Sustainable Living Field Lab and even built his house with solar powered tools. If you are out his way, maybe he will bake you some bread in his solar oven!
Casa Talia in Sicily is a redevelopment project of several small independent houses that are located in the center of Modica. They are arranged in a circle around a Mediterranean garden with each having an entrance from the garden. The project was inspired by a typical Moroccan riad.
A rebel self-governing neighborhood within a well-ordered society is Christiania, Denmark. It is in the middle of Copenhagen! These houses are built by hand and even the hardware store in the town sells recycled materials from lumber to sinks. Some of them are recreated from shepherd’s huts and gypsy wagons.
Tumbleweed Houses by Jack Shafer has a mission to reintroduce the American culture to the “less is more” philosophy. These houses you can buy or build yourself. They range from 65-874 square feet.