January 14, 2011
What’s Wrong With This House?
Fast Houses, Slow Homes and How to Tell the Difference
by John Brown & Matthew North
I’ve described what one should avoid in a Fast House. Let’s look on the flip-side at what really defines a Slow Home? Brown & North continue with the ideal description of a space we can comfortably call home; Lexis has adopted this model in their building philosophy.
The Slow Food Movement of the mid-1980s brought people back to how things were eaten in the ‘olden days’. Slow Food now opposes the standardization of taste; think salt content and edible bi-products we’ve experienced for a long while now. Slow Food protects cultural identities tied to our culinary traditions; sure, fast food chains offer a lobster burger on the Canadian coast, but is that a true representation of a traditional seafood meal? Slow Food is based on its long-term value to our wellbeing rather than short-term gain; instant and long-term benefits of a carrot stick naturally outweigh the instant gratification and yucky feeling after potato chips. Like Slow Food, a Slow Home benefits the health and wellbeing of those residing in it, as well as the planet. It helps the homeowner take a slower approach to life within this fast-paced world.
Now, don’t confuse a Slow Home with a high-end, new, or custom home; although custom homes can give a buyer the potential to incorporate Slow Home concepts, they can come in all shapes, price ranges and years built. The following are a few concepts Slow Homes should portray.
Chapter 2 | Slow Homes
Grouping common-themed rooms together will avoid traffic through the home, facilitating easy movement & flow; You wouldn’t want to run more than a dozen feet to get a spice from your pantry while cooking, nor down the hall to the closest closet for laundry soap. Brown & North also describe a kitchen’s efficient work triangle, unobtrusively between the sink, stove, and fridge; this allows any chef to easily flow through the kitchen.
Where do you spend the most time in your house? If you did not answer the main living room, consider the idea you may currently live in a minimally-functioning Fast House. The living room should be the best space in the home: best possible daylight, open layout, and centrally located to the home’s flow… The uses for this space can be endless: conversation pit, movie theatre, craft room, office, snoozing grounds, social club, and likely many more and in combination. Dedicating decent space and design will make this space ideally usable.
Outdoor living should be easily accessible and essentially an extension of main living spaces. A balcony needs to be a useful shape –long and skinny without being able to fit a table setting is rather useless.
When indoor living, dining space is a high traffic one; an eating bar alone is usually insufficient. Space required for the dining table and chairs should be free of door swings and other collisions of space, and conversely not leave too much wasted space surrounding. It is also recommended to centre the table on a visual focus, perhaps a window, a large piece of art, or a book shelf.
Does your house have a beautiful study, enclosed behind French doors with a large desk, shelving galore, and comfy armchairs? If you use this space, great. If you really just pay your bills on your laptop while sitting on the living room couch, this space is not well designed for your usage. In this case, seek alternatives: if your desk often looks like a tornado hit it, a small alcove with proper space for a desk, away from view of the main living space could be ideal. If you keep a tidy office, the 2-in-1 kitchen table with basket shelving close by could be a more ideal alternative.
Bedrooms should allow the user to efficiently get ready in the morning. A flow from bedside to closet to bathroom is the natural and Slow Home progression to allow quiet and less back-and-forth for those sleeping in. Closets can also ideally be located to create sound buffers between rooms.
Bathroom details are a Goldilocks story about size: not too big on the main floor, but not too small to efficiently provide counter space and storage. The just-right size may not include an en-suite if that space would be better used otherwise. Location on the main floor counts, too; Have you ever awkwardly been a guest in a home where the bathroom door opens to the gathering area?!
Entries are a point of transition. Main entries should not be extremely visible from the entire house; we Saskatonians need that space to freely host our keys & blackberry, touques & muddy boots, groceries and guests and then not begrudge the chaos from every room in the house.
In our climate, winter for much of the year, our homes should be oriented to heat the interior by the sun. Therefore, main living space windows ideally face South. This can dramatically reduce the energy load of less natural heating mechanisms. Give the garage North-facing space!
Our homes are the most important place where personal recalibration needs to occur; they are our haven from a fast-paced world. If you never experience Slow Home living, you may believe your Fast House is still doing the trick, without realizing how unacceptable it really is. A Slow Home is designed to fit the way we actually live. I challenge you to investigate your current space to change one concept towards slower living and tell us about it on Facebook.
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