Book Review: Compact Houses

Compact Houses:  50 Creative Floor Plans For Well-Designed Small Homes, by Gerald Rowan

I think highly enough of this book that even after reading it I would consider buying a copy of this book for my own collection, at least in the future when building one of these fine homes would be a possibility.  As someone who greatly loves housing plans and shares a lot of similarities with the author, including a fondness for off-the grid living and some life experience in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, there was a great deal that resonated with me about this book.  And I must admit that there was something about this book that struck me as deeply puzzling, and that was the fact that the author’s attempts to paint these houses as being small houses that might cause people to need to live more efficiently and organize their space better would be larger than any space which has ever been my own.  When an author paints simplifying and shrinking one’s footprint and someone like myself reads it as an expansion of space, there is perhaps a bit of a sense of cross-purposes here, although I am by no means the sort of person who is as handy as most people would be in these circumstances.

This book is organized very simply.  The author begins with a justification of living small (again, this is odd to me, since these homes would be large by my own standards of housing) After that there are 50 plans for compact houses designed for various places–some warm weather, some of them with gorgeous views.  Although there is a lot of variety to be found, there are at least a few parallels that come through many of these plans, including the advocacy of passive and active solar heating, open floor plans, Japanese bathrooms that allow for the simultaneous use of the restroom by two or three people with privacy, and high windows that allow for heating and light while maintaining privacy.  Many of the home plans have exterior decks, porches, sunrooms, and one even has a semi-enclosed courtyard.  Many of them have reading nooks and open floor plans as well to allow for the heating of the entire house from a single fireplace or stove.  After that the author spends some time talking about some key factors of design for small spaces, the importance of efficiency and sustainability, as well as how one can find and renovate a compact house.  The book as a whole ends up being around two hundred pages.

One of the shrewd aspects of this particular volume is the way that the author manages to combine so many different aspects of housing design in the same approach.  Are you looking to preserve the environment by living more simply and efficiently and using less energy?  If so, you will find much to enjoy here.  Are you looking for striking and relatively inexpensive housing plans that can provide maximum living for less than conventional building?  If so, you will find much to enjoy here.  Are you looking to find a lifestyle that will allow one to live a bit more off the grid and less subject to the whims of an unstable society?  If so, you will find much to enjoy here.  When thrifty but intelligent home shoppers, environmentalists, and slightly paranoid people can find a common ground in appreciating homes with solid design principles that are tailored to the specific site, then all involved can recognize the many motives that drive people to look for “small” houses, some of which are well over 1000 square feet and some of which are two or three stories, providing privacy and a clever use of design to provide inventive purposes for rooms with some high-concept design attributes.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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