Square Footage with a Twist

Square Footage with a Twist


At this time in American history, we most often acquire things because we want them, rather than merely acquiring things we need. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but our perspective has changed radically, in a relatively short time, and this affects how we perceive practical things of all shapes and sizes, from cooking implements to vehicles to our living quarters.

Financial considerations certainly represent a very important factor in the home buying process, but in truth what often comes to mind first is a very distinct image of the appearance of the ideal home, complete with interior details. When it comes to our dream home, we like to dream big.

We might approach this from a different angle, merely for the sake of playful discussion, I assure you, and ask the following question: What square footage per person is actually appropriate? My research landed me on a thought provoking Blog post titled: “So Many Square Feet, So Few People” which explores how we think about home size. I will let it speak for itself in the following excerpts:

“Typically, homes are merely judged by their square footage and disregard the number of occupants. Meaning, that the owner of a large home with a big family might be criticized by small home proponents, while at the same time small homes are shunned for offering too little space for a family. Perhaps, instead of thinking of how large a house should or should not be, we should consider how much space each individual needs, a sort of square feet per capita idea.”

“The best way to start is by gaining a little historical perspective. The average American home in 1950 was 983 square feet and… the average American household size was 3.37 people. This means that in 1950 the average American had 292 sfpp (square feet per person). In the years that followed, home size gradually grew and household size gradually fell until, in 2006, the average American household of 2.61 shared a house of 2,349 square feet. So, in 2006, the average American had 900 sfpp, and that number has certainly grown… with home size numbers approaching 2,800 square feet for 2008.”

“So, seeing this wide range, the question remains: How much space do we need? Has the increase in sfpp seen a correlating increase in the quality of life? Are we three times more comfortable than we were in 1950? Are we three times happier?”

A comment by a reader offered these arguments:

“What about taking it even further? If we are not purely looking at the size of the house, but also take into account how many people live there, then what about looking at the variation of space needed by these individuals? For example, when I get home, I cook, watch some TV, do something on computer, and sleep. I do not really need much for this at all. I rather prefer looking outside and talking walks… instead of having a large area indoors. However, what about people with various hobbies that require indoor space? Maybe this logic of very individual determination of needed space should be used…How does one define what is too much?”

“Overall, I think it is easy to determine how much space a person needs. Put together activities that a person is involved in, add up space that they require and here you are… Calculating the space one feels comfortable in is very subjective.”

How do you define your need for space? Looking at current trends in architecture, it appears we value open spaces that provide the sense of being safely enclosed within familiar walls while feasting the eye and lungs on open vistas. Perhaps our living space is becoming just that, a living space, as opposed to just being a house.


100K House, a Philadelphia-based Blog about All Things Modern, Affordable & Green

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