A Very Small House: Designing for Good Living

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Virginia Tech


The notion of good living when related to habitation is, particularly in the United States, often associated with houses or apartments of large square footage. This demand for large spaces leads to compromises in architectural integrity and construction quality. In an architectural sense, good living is not directly related to the quantity of space.

In this thesis, I argue that spatial quantity does not necessarily improve people's lives. Additionally, an excess of space often leads to investments in superficial conventions and products which can be associated with a consumer driven iconic representation of good living. At closer examination, most of these goods and products are disconnected from the most essential qualities of life and contribute little to the quality of our human relations. From an environmental standpoint, large under-used spaces require a larger footprint, i.e. larger parcels of land, with a greater consumption of construction materials and increased maintenance and energy demands over the extended "life" of a house.

In this thesis work I will attempt to search for unique and substantial qualities within a house that is designed to be of a very small square footage. The design philosophy for A Very Small House has, at its core, only the most essential qualities of domestic space. For the personal life of the inhabitant: a refined place to cook, a refined place to bathe, a refined place to sleep. For the life of the inhabitant as a member of a family or a community: a refined place to gather and a refined place to extend.

I use the word refined in this context to mean: very subtle, precise, or exact. A means of ennobling an act or a space



Architectural Strategies for Small Dwelling, Intimate, Refined