Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15
By Emily Kiker Finkell
Have you noticed the tiny house trend lately on cable channels and in shelter magazines? If not, simply Google “tiny house” and a plethora of links such as HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living” or “Tiny House Nation” will enlighten you. The tiny house aficionado’s mission is to downsize to a 180-square-foot home on average that is extremely well-designed to maximize the use of space. These tiny houses are modern-day examples of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” approach to design. Each and every square foot must perform multiple purposes and oftentimes allow a home to be either portable, more affordable in otherwise expensive locations or both. Although this has been done before in the Spartan post-war 1950s houses, today’s small square footage tiny home is now kitted out in stainless steel commercial-grade appliances, hardwood floors and other high-end options. Within this context the phrase “less is more” represents a whole new facet, doing drastically more within less space.
Within the context of homes, we’ve certainly seen a few market adjustments throughout the past 40-plus years. Looking back, the 1970s style brick ranch homes were averaging 1,660 square feet and were finished out with the bare necessities. Then the 2006 pre-recession “McMansions” were built too large for their small lots, which brings us to the “just right” home of 2015 that hovers around the 2,600-square-foot range, according to recent NAHB analysis and U.S. Census data. Today’s homes are specified with high-end, non-standard finishes with the cost running around $125 per square foot and beyond. Kitchens are not only luxuriously appointed with custom style cabinets which look more like furniture, Carrara marble counter tops and backsplashes but also top-of-the-line appliances.
“Bigger is better” is another old adage that we all love to throw around. I can certainly make a case for either big or small. While the average footprint of homes has gone through changes over the years, the quality of the materials has certainly been upgraded in every way possible, too. Using better quality materials in bigger formats is our modern-day approach to the statement. How one defines what is “better” can be blown out a little further. “Better” includes the confidence in the brand’s overall value, the belief that the materials are responsibly sourced and manufactured, the product will be safe to install in the home for both short and long term, and will still look great after years of daily use. Better styling should also mean the visual will not look dated in a couple of years. Knowing the difference between trendy and trends is essential and is something you can call upon your manufacturers to provide. If they don’t have this information, you can shop a little more to find alternatives that demonstrate they are doing the legwork necessary to offer the best looking, longest enduring styles and colors.
Looking across the various flooring categories, it is easy to see why one category stands apart from the rest as the preferred category from millennials to boomers. Hardwood flooring continues to be the most preferred flooring, according to recent interior design and home surveys. Hardwood floors immediately elevate a home’s interior and never go out of style. Wood is—and always will be—in vogue, and today that includes both wide and long boards made of North American hardwoods such as the very popular white oak. As consumers, we want to have it all—and why not? Both expressions, “less is more” and “bigger is better,” work together to make smaller rooms look more expansive with larger, longer and wider wood planks visually opening up any interior space.