Unentertaining
July 20, 2018 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Our Homes Don’t Need Formal Spaces :On features we think we want but never use.
posted by The Whelk (160 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean, I don't exactly disagree, but then again I don't go to Thanksgiving at my parents because their house is too small, and as such I haven't seen all my siblings together in like 20 years in the house we grew up in.

I think it's ok to admit that houses that aren't built for occasional extra inhabitants have serious drawbacks. Or even better, build one kinda big room that can be repurposed for holidays. Formal/informal whatever.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:26 AM on July 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


I read this a few days ago. The "Curbed" discussion was interesting because the only thing anyone could talk about is why they were different and the article didn't apply to them. The article makes a fair point, and I read it as advice to first time buyers, not a critique of "how you personally live".
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


And I get the feeling that the writer hates windows. They invented these things called curtains - your average suburban tract home has too few windows, not too many. That's the one thing mcmansions get right.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2018 [20 favorites]


I dunno. I host a weekly games night for about a dozen people, and we have activist meetings at our house probably every other week. We can do it been because we've got a good space for it...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


Fun fact: what you call your living room used to be called the parlor. Or even the Death Room, because that's where one would lay out the dead for the ceremony. But once the funeral industry starting raking in the bucks and appropriating the word "parlor," the Ladies Home Journal suggested the term Living Room. Now, home funerals are coming back into style (especially in California, of course).
posted by kozad at 10:34 AM on July 20, 2018 [29 favorites]


You don't need a wine cellar... IF you're going to do wine tastings in your butler's kitchen.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:42 AM on July 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


I’m consistently amazed that my friend, her husband, and kid, who live in a 3-story home, don’t each live on separate floors. Because what’s the point of a floor per person otherwise?
(Admittedly, that’s the only way I could live with another human at this point.)
posted by greermahoney at 10:47 AM on July 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


how is one expected to LIVE without one's walk-in humidor
posted by poffin boffin at 10:48 AM on July 20, 2018 [28 favorites]


I NEVER hosted a great party in college. We always went to Drummer Bob’s, who lived in a decent sized house with enough of a yard that we could all spill out around a campfire, or to Frank’s, where there was a pinball machine and extra seating in what was built to be a dining room.

See, that’s my question: if you don’t have a formal living or dining room, where do you put the pinball machines? (Basements are right out for South Florida. Down here, if you dig a basement, you’ve got a pool.)
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 10:51 AM on July 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


And I get the feeling that the writer hates windows.

She has put some thought into it.
posted by thelonius at 10:52 AM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm a fan of Wagner, but, no, my friend, when you are an established professional, it is very weird and awkward to entertain in a slightly-rundown, sub-500-sq-ft space. And though I am anti-social, I do feel a little unhappy about that.

I think a formal entertaining space has always been somewhat little-used in the average American home. How many novels talk about the chilly front parlor with all the antimacassars on the furniture that people only go into on Sundays? But they weren't designed wildly out of proportion for their purpose like your average great room or whatever. I think that's the real problem here.
posted by praemunire at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


We all know that people like to party in the kitchen. (That's because humans are used to sitting in a circle around the fire, where the food is prepared.)
posted by kozad at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


I mean, I don't exactly disagree, but then again I don't go to Thanksgiving at my parents because their house is too small, and as such I haven't seen all my siblings together in like 20 years in the house we grew up in.

Seconding this. We didn't have our Thanksgiving dinners in my aunt's dining room because we were being fancy-ass pretentious fuddy-duddies, we ate in my aunt's dining room because there were 20 of us and that was the only damn place in the house where we could all sit down in the same group. Even so we had to bring in an extra card table as "the kid's table". And when we were done with dinner, we usually cleared all the fancy tablecloth and centerpiece and stuff off the table, broke out the pies and the paper plates, and had cuthroat games of penny poker lasting upwards of three hours while we had dessert.

We could have also eaten in the kitchen - in fact, that's where breakfast usually happened when we went to her house - but the kitchen table was smaller and could usually fit only my aunt and uncle's family (the pair of them and three cousins) and whoever else was staying overnight with them (usually my own nuclear family of parents, brother, and me, and maybe another aunt and uncle and two more cousins). Even then we often ate in shifts, or someone had to perch on a stool at that weird countertop by the window.

If you invite people over to visit, you need to have space for them to exist in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2018 [16 favorites]


I worked in house painting for years and every single newish suburban house I worked in had a big central entranceway with a formal dining room on the right and a formal living room on the left and no one ever used any of them. People came into the house via the garage instead of the front entrance and except for holidays, never used the living room or dining room. Also most of the time, the living room had a grand piano that no one ever played.
posted by octothorpe at 10:57 AM on July 20, 2018 [37 favorites]


I'd be curious to see the actual study and look at the ethnic background of those who they studied. McMansion owners aside, for many cultures, auxiliary rooms might at first seem redundant but serve specific and important purposes. For instance, many cultures feel the need for a secondary kitchen, a living/rec room along with a sitting room. I've known Hindus and Muslims who've altered what would be a formal living room in a suburban cookie cutter home into a prayer room which doubles also as a place to entertain guests.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:58 AM on July 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


this entire conversation is ridiculous because no one can afford to buy a home in the first place, much less one equipped for formal entertaining of large groups of guests.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2018 [120 favorites]


I sometimes dream about having a room that can actually be for guests, with chairs and a big table for games, instead of making do with our living room. It's great for two people, but for a party, it gets kind of cramped fast. My childhood home had a pretty cozy living room, and a converted screened porch that had been turned into a family room/office (it was a big old porch). I know my parents loved having the extra room for kid stuff, and the main room that could be an actual adult space.

It might have been different if we lived somewhere with a basement to fill that purpose. But we didn't, so we converted a screened in porch into a bonus room to fill that need.

I like Kate Wagner, and I love McMansion Hell -- there is definitely such a thing as TOO MUCH HOUSE. However! I think that she mostly rents, and when you rent, you make do with whatever space you've got that you can afford. I'm a generally-broke millennial, I'm in the same general boat. But after I've had to plan Thanksgiving for 15-20, you can bet I've wished desperately for an extra room in my otherwise perfectly fine 750 square foot townhouse just to put everybody. Still, one day (maybe, a millennial can dream), I can perhaps own a townhouse with a bonus multipurpose room.
posted by PearlRose at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


My parents turned their living room into the band practice space, and mine is a photography studio. I think the key to a good entertaining room is to make it, y'know, entertaining.
posted by weed donkey at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


If you have kids or teenagers, have a separate space for adults (i.e., a "living room") makes everything just a bit more sane.
posted by JamesBay at 11:01 AM on July 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


People like to spend time together eating and watching TV, without the glare from those two-story great-room windows.

We don't live in a giant house of the type she's really talking about, but as a parent of a toddler, I'm exceedingly glad we have a living room separate from the room with the TV (in the basement, a den I guess, but we don't call it that). I like TV and spend a lot of time after she's asleep watching TV, but I don't need everything I do with her to happen in front of the magic Elmo machine. It's not a "formal" living space exactly, but I think some duplication of that space is really nice and useful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:03 AM on July 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


The "Curbed" discussion was interesting because the only thing anyone could talk about is why they were different and the article didn't apply to them.

What a fascinating prediction of exactly how this thread would turn out as well.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:04 AM on July 20, 2018 [67 favorites]


They should come to Utah where most houses have set aside rooms near the front door for the Visiting Teachers, and only for them (although the program was relaxed recently). As a kid, you're not allowed on the furniture or even on the carpet in that room because it's set aside for that use only and must be kept in pristine condition. Often times it has a piano for some jovial worship tunes.

My current neighborhood was built by a "modern" builder and none of the homes have these spaces. Coincidentally, only 1 of my 20 some-odd neighbors who has this style of house is Mormon. Anecdotal, for sure, but it's the only reason I can come up with why my suburban neighborhood is different.
posted by msbutah at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


My partner and I bought a house (my first home and couldn't be prouder) that is quite small for American standards. Less than 1000 sq feet. There is just the two of us and we love it. It's old, and maybe because of that, the space is well planned and every space has a purpose. The issue, we have found, in entertaining in smaller spaces, is that EVERYTHING is on display. Whereas with larger homes that have more entertaining specific spaces, you can more clearly delineate no-go spaces. Like, you can have a guest bathroom, and you don't have to worry about your guests seeing all your daily bathroom stuff on the counter. We've found that if we have people over we put a lot more time to make sure all our personal belongings are put away because you can't just throw it in a room that guests never go in.

Entertaining in small houses just takes more forethought and has been yet another motivator for us to cull down on our belongings.
posted by heatherbeth at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


People like to spend time together eating and watching TV

That's the other thing as well. I & my wife grew up in households where we didn't eat meals in front of a TV. Always in the dining room. It was and still is a rare occassion in our house when you eat a meal in front of the TV. I guess we're an aberation in that way, though again I wouldn't be shocked if there were a wider range of cultures where that was not acceptable. But on the other hand, with so many TVs in restaurants these days I've got to assume that the majority of people are comfortable with this arrangement.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:11 AM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


See, that’s my question: if you don’t have a formal living or dining room, where do you put the pinball machines?

the garage? altho then your car turns into a horrible floridian oven on the driveway
posted by poffin boffin at 11:11 AM on July 20, 2018


Some newer apartment buildings seem to solve this problem by having shared "party" rooms that the residents rent or reserve (and clean afterwards) so that way they can accommodate larger groups of people.

We end up usually having family holiday dinners at my sister-in-law's house, which is definitely the smallest of the houses on that side of the family, but she is also the best cook (who truly enjoys cooking)... Or maybe we just like her better? I dunno.
posted by jillithd at 11:12 AM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


If you have kids or teenagers, have a separate space for adults (i.e., a "living room") makes everything just a bit more sane.

Right. My parents raised eight kids in total, and the two houses my parents built during the course of their 56-year marriage both had a family room (the room with the TV and the books, games, and toys) and a living room (the more formal room with the piano). We did have company regularly, and we certainly used both spaces daily. Of course most people don't have that size of family, but my mother is so invested in her two living/entertaining spaces system that when I bought a three-bedroom condo at 27, she suggested that I turn the smallest bedroom into a family room and have my TV in there, so as to "keep my living room nice for company", though as I pointed out, I had neither a TV nor a family and what exactly did she think I was going to do in my living room that would be so damaging?
posted by orange swan at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


I think there's some typical "ugh feeling SO ATTACKED rn" going in the comments here. I didn't get the sense that the author had a problem with the existence of something like a dining room or living room at a reasonable scale. She's talking about cavernous second kitchens, "grand rooms" larger than a whole postwar starter home, etc.

In other words, I think she's talking about the house equivalent of using a minivan for your daily commute because every three years you have more than three passengers, not the house equivalent of buying anything with a backseat.
posted by yomimono at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2018 [47 favorites]


where do you put the pinball machines?

One of my wife's wealthy clients has a room in the basement for his pinball machines. But a purpose built room in the basement.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:14 AM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Our (urban, single family) home used to have a formal dining room, as near as we can tell. At some point a former owner filled in one of the doorways and turned the dining room into a large 1st floor bedroom. The old living room became a combo living/dining space. The last owner remodeled the basement to finish it out, providing a family room.

End result is that we use the bedroom every day, we use the living/dining space every day. If we have a big gathering we can rearrange the furniture slightly to open up the shared space into a pretty big room. It's the best of both worlds. (TV in the family room, no TV in the living/dining space, because guests are here to see us, not the damned TV)

A friend moved to the McMansion suburbs. Her husband is a lawyer so she wanted "entertaining" spaces. Her house has a 3-car garage that dominates the view from the street. Dwarfed by that, there is a formal front door, flanked inside by a formal dining room and a formal sitting room. We've been over for a lot of visits, which are invariably held by entering through the garage, where all entertaining is done in the kitchen and tiny adjacent sitting area. I have yet to see anyone do a damned thing with the formal dining room or sitting room. They are basically dead space. I don't get it.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:17 AM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


We've got a little 1920s foursquare house with just enough space for the three of us, with a kitchen that we finally renovated to be useful, a small living room, and a small dining room on the first floor. There was also a porch on the front that some previous owner converted to living space, so we have a mudroom (!!!) and tiny little living room extension where books and toys live. We entertain all the time, although admittedly more in the warm-weather months so we can sit outside. Otherwise there's never enough space or enough chairs for everybody.

But if we're inside? People sit or stand where they can, kids run underfoot, it's overloud and raucous, and it's just fine.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:18 AM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


existence of something like a dining room or living room at a reasonable scale.

Why do you get that idea? A formal dining room and 2nd living room are features of the median home square footage mentioned, about 2400 sq ft. 6000+ sq ft homes have things like media rooms, offices that are not re purposed bedrooms, 2nd laundry rooms, 3 car garages and up, and full bathrooms off every bedroom, and more full-sized bedrooms, and a master bedroom that is approximately the size of a post-war home. That people just sleep in (so in a broad sense not covered in this context, it is used).
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:18 AM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've wandered through a lot of model homes, and I think we should coin the term "entryway awe" to go with "curb appeal".

I hang around at home without my pants on a lot of the time, so I've never thought that opening the door and seeing a vast open space is that suitable for my life. For the rest of you, sliding walls and folding doors might be nice.
posted by puddledork at 11:20 AM on July 20, 2018


They are basically dead space. I don't get it.

Pure displays of wealth. "Look what we're rich enough to buy and then never use!"
posted by 1adam12 at 11:21 AM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


(being trained as a social historian with Marxist leanings, I can't help but observed that) There is a class element to this: lower class housing does not (traditionally or modernly) have formal spaces - and when they are awkwardly crammed in (e.g. the 'dining room' that's actually just an L off the living room, in a 1000-sq foot three bedroom) they steal from useful space like kitchens, and end up being informal anyways. We love our current house: with four people, we have a goodly sized living room, which can sit all of us, and we have a great eat-in kitchen - a door between the two for quiet, and that's it for big rooms on the main floor (plus a mudroom, bathroom and back stairs/vestibule).

That said: sometimes, you totally need to host 20 people to dinner, and that's just not possible in an actually space-sensible home. For Passover this year, we had about 20 people, and even borrowed a larger house than our own - and it was still too crowded.

What to do about the once-every-year (or less) stupidly large thing? This is why I love party rooms in buildings. It's hard when they are overly restrictive (not allowing alcohol) or if there is too much competition (don't try to book the first night of Passover in Jewish-heavy building), but when we've been able to use them it's been great. You can fit the people in, have lots of space - and there are added bonuses, like not worrying about cat allergies, or your god-child reaching for the precariously perched china in your most definitely not child-proofed house.

My dream would be to live in a townhouse/low-rise cooperative community, with large shared spaces that you could book for special events (and at other times just hang out in with your neighbours). That would be so lovely.
posted by jb at 11:22 AM on July 20, 2018 [25 favorites]


Around here those "entryway awe" spaces fill up fast with boots and coats, when the homeowner hosts a party in winter. But in the summer they are kinda ridiculous looking, yes.
posted by elizilla at 11:23 AM on July 20, 2018


The annual Builder's Tour in my area is essentially a catalog of "what's cool and trendy in house design" since rarely are the houses featured anything but top end of the market.

Very often, they are perfectly fine houses with appendages grafted on, an extra dining room or sitting area that serve no purpose but to pad out the square footage and the agent's checklist.

His and hers offices on either side of the front door are a particular favourite, but the formal dining room tacked onto the front, with no direct path to the kitchen or washroom is very common.
The kind of room where you put a big table from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, that slowly accretes children's school projects and that box you mean to take down to Goodwill until just before Thanksgiving when all of the fancy dishes and silverware comes out.
posted by madajb at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


For two people and two cats, we have a lot of house. It’s a 100+ year old and we have room to entertain, but rarely do so as no family lives nearby and all our friends tend to be introverts like us.

I grew up in a typical suburban home where we had a formal living room and dining room and they were never used except as my stepdad’s makeshift home office. My sister has carried on this fine tradition in her large suburban home!
posted by Kitteh at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2018


Also, boy, am I glad I never have to host holiday dinners and salute all of you who do.
posted by Kitteh at 11:27 AM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think I'm biased to appreciate this article because of my dislike for "open concept" spaces. A formal dining room and sitting room are needed because of course the casual dining room is sitting right between the open-space kitchen and the open-space living room. But then for family thanksgivings we squeeze into the enclosed formal dining room rather than moving some furniture to set up a big enough table in the big open space? (Because then we'd see the messy kitchen as we eat and we can't have that happen). I don't know, give me a kitchen with doors I can close and I can move the couch so I can put leaves in the table.

I would eat the rich for a second bath, though. The modern trend of one bathroom per non-bathroom is one I can get behind.
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on July 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


I wish the article had delved more into the historical origins of formal vs. informal living spaces. I do think there's something to be said for the aspirational nature of formal living spaces democratized out to the middle and upper middle classes because traditionally speaking, rich people with formal living spaces actually needed them because they were more like villages than homes, complete with large staffs and regular guests for dinners and parties. You don't want the Viscount of Alderberry tramping through your personal living space!

Whereas generally speaking in modern America, when we invite people to our home, we are inviting them into what is understood to be a de facto private space and thus are inviting some degree of intimacy, even if those people may not necessarily be made to feel comfortable using the master bedroom en suite.
posted by Automocar at 11:31 AM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I agree -- I don't see the need for formal unused rooms. We live in a small 1950s bungalow. The kitchen is big enough to prepare food in, and that is it, so all meals occur in the dining room. The dining room was 10x10', but we recently added a small addition to make it bigger, so now we can actually have guests over for dinner. The front entrance way is a tiny cramped hallway with hooks for coats, but it gets the job done. The living room is lived in because there ain't nowhere else to go unless you want to hang out in the basement (where the teevee lives). I know lots of people with formal rooms that either collect dust and junk. Seems silly to heat and cool useless rooms.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:39 AM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I thought the new trend we all hated was eliminating all interior walls, wouldn't that solve the issue? It's just all one room now!
posted by emjaybee at 11:39 AM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


The "UCLA study" that this article cites in a roundabout way is best covered in the book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, written by some of the study investigators. It is much more interesting and wide-ranging than the single heat-map that has been shared all over the place lately, and I have written up some of the most interesting (to me) facts on my blog.

It is worth noting the study was principally carried out from 2001-2005, in that prehistoric time before ubiquitous smartphones. While I'm sure many of the findings still hold true (e.g. “Cars have been banished from 75% of garages to make way for rejected furniture and cascading bins and boxes of mostly forgotten household goods”), I suspect that plenty has changed thanks to technology, recession, migration, changing culture, etc.

As such, the study - while fascinating and an important resource for the future - shouldn't be extrapolated too far. It's about dual income families where the kids are in their early teens, mostly. I recall that the household incomes were (to me) surprisingly high, with the mean being around $100k. The study did not cover people with no kids, single individuals, older people, etc. It was only in LA. I'm not sure how they found the families, either. And they only studied each family for a few days.

Not that I'm an authority on the matter, I was just interested enough to buy the book – something that none of the journalists appeared to bother doing.
posted by adrianhon at 11:43 AM on July 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


I don't know. Just out of curiosity, I looked up my aunt and uncle's old house to see how big it was. That's where we usually had our Irish-Catholic family get-togethers, even though it was an old (1915) craftsman without much space. 8-10 adults, 10+ kids at any given occasion, and it turns out they pulled it off with only 1700 square feet (a figure that includes bedrooms, which of course were not part of the entertaining space). I second the author's point that people don't need as much space as they think they do.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:45 AM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I mean for fuck's sake, the Curbed article starts by saying "For a recent study" when it is ABSOLUTELY NOT RECENT. I guess the Marketwatch story is recent tho so who the fuck cares about research any more? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by adrianhon at 11:46 AM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I would struggle to have too many rooms. I could fill and use so, so many rooms if I were somehow magically gifted a giant house. Off the top of my head I would enjoy (and obviously do not have)
- a dining room
- a pantry
- a dedicated laundry room
- a room just for the cats, where I can mount loads of stuff on the walls for them to climb and fill with practical but super ugly cat stuff.
- another room that just has fish tanks and snails and a tortoise
- a dedicated art room. I share a tiny cramped office with husband at the moment and do not have space to ever set up my sewing machine
- a workshop for woodworking.
- a library
- an actual guest bedroom
- more than one bathroom

I have no interest in formal rooms that are never used, seems like a waste, but boy I could do so much with more rooms. I don't "need" them, of course, but I would enjoy more space SO MUCH.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:47 AM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think the analogy about driving a minivan when you really need a car that size once every three years is in line with my thinking. If you entertain a lot, then get a house with space for that (or can be adjusted for that event), if you entertain large groups infrequently then don't get the big house, it only requires cleaning anyway.

The point about people being there to see you, not the house is correct - have friends over and you'll muddle through.
posted by arcticseal at 11:50 AM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


8-10 adults, 10+ kids at any given occasion, and it turns out they pulled it off with only 1700 square feet (a figure that includes bedrooms, which of course were not part of the entertaining space). I second the author's point that people don't need as much space as they think they do.

I once hosted Thanksgiving for 10 people in a 700-square foot Brooklyn 2-bedroom apartment. People definitely don't need as much space as they think they do.
posted by Automocar at 11:51 AM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


Pure displays of wealth. "Look what we're rich enough to buy and then never use!"

I think this is the heart of the matter - Mefites are in general not the demographic this article is speaking to.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:03 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Look what we're rich enough to buy and then never use!"

This is actually why I put one of those plastic-wrapped hothouse cucumbers on the kitchen counter when people come over.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:07 PM on July 20, 2018 [19 favorites]


I appreciate my personal space. What I absolutely detest is eating a meal with a plate in my lap, because there isn't enough space. Conversation gets difficult, managing drinks get difficult, and then I spill food all over my clothes. That is all.
posted by honey badger at 12:07 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I grew up lower-middle-class with mostly upper-middle-class classmates, and this was the most noticeable and consistent way in which their houses differed from mine. Always two dining tables - one in "the formal dining room" and one in the kitchen - and two rooms with couches - the "living room" and the "den" or "family room" or whatever. They also all had two-story houses, and usually the kids didn't have to share rooms, and usually they had a guest room.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


My parents had formal dining and living rooms. As we got older, both rooms evolved into the library. Bookcases in the lounge held the encyclopaedia, both rooms had the best lighting, big oversized armchairs, perfect for curling up, and it was quiet. I remember my Mom balking that it was formal space, but i think in the end she liked that the rooms were used. Our bedrooms did have desks, but i think me and my siblings liked being able to spread our stuff out and yet be together.

Our dining room seats 10, with the best light in the house. it is a workspace in between regular dinner parties. Me n mr. lemon_icing struggle with hearing in noisy environments like restaurants with music, and I love to cook, so our formal spaces are in use every 6/7 weeks. And that makes me extraordinarily happy.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I once hosted Thanksgiving for 10 people in a 700-square foot Brooklyn 2-bedroom apartment. People definitely don't need as much space as they think they do.

I desperately and fervently love the place I am living now. It possesses a great room and I guess you could say a cavernous kitchen. It has improved my life so much and I use both all the time. It’s not just for when you have large family gatherings (though also good for that, if you have ten cousins and they all have a few kids it gets huge FAST) but also when you want to be able to entertain without forcing everyone else to hide if they don’t want to be a part of it.

It’s also really good for people with depression and anxiety. You never feel cramped and you have plenty of ways to leave. And if you only use the greatroom for entertaining or reading, you barely need to clean it, which means when you’re feeling like crap, you just don’t let people into your personal living areas which need to basically be set on fire.
posted by corb at 12:16 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I thought the new trend we all hated was eliminating all interior walls, wouldn't that solve the issue? It's just all one room now!

This is the thing - last year I hosted Thanksgiving for 13 people in my New York City apartment, which has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an Everything Else Room (kitchen, dining, living). I have a second-hand dining table with leaves that seats up to ten, and a smaller table I usually use as a desk. I had to completely rearrange my living space, but in the end I was able to seat them all easily, and I'm convinced I could manage up to 18 or 20, although I'd need to borrow a third table.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also most of the time, the living room had a grand piano that no one ever played.

Boy, did this American tradition really piss me off when I was a working musician and couldn't afford a good piano.
posted by kozad at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


controversial opinion i guess but i think it's okay to individually opt out of aspirational emulation of the excesses of previous generations
posted by poffin boffin at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2018 [25 favorites]


I've always been a fan of lofts that I can reconfigure any way I want to. My wife and I are thinking of what we want in a dream home and it mostly is a large open area with a sunken conversation pit in the living room, with a Japanese grill, a huge kitchen and pantry and a private bedroom. We're thinking of two extra buildings on the same lot, one for her craft studio, the other for my music/office. And a large outdoor kitchen for entertaining and messy stuff.

We're not having kids but we do want to have people over frequently for large events and this would be designed around that. I also want to get as far away from the traditional house layout as possible. I'd happily live in an airplane hanger.
posted by mikesch at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't live in a McMansion. I live in a Federal/Colonial/Whatever-style home built in 1965. We had a formal living room space, a dining room, a kitchen, and a family room on the first floor. The dining room was too small to seat the bajillion people I have over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the other dozen or more times per year we have big gatherings, so when we decided to renovate the kitchen (the cabinets were the SAME cabinets we had in our shit-tastic rental apartment in our college town!) in 2009, we knocked down some walls.

The dining room was absorbed into the kitchen. Walls were removed from between the kitchen and family room to make it more open concept but not so much that they're all one room. We can now seat 12 comfortably in the eat-in part of the kitchen, and can push a long fold-up conference table on the end, going into the family room, for another 12 (and the kitchen island seats 4 if needed). We made the living room into my husband's office (he works from home), but he takes up very little space so we also use that room in other ways (the record player cabinet/console we inherited from his parents is in there, frex).

We have an unfinished basement but we knew if we finished it, the kids would all go down there when we had gatherings, and we didn't want that. Hence the giant (relatively speaking) kitchen, which I love and use SO MUCH. We love that the kids all hang in the family room and we can hear them laughing, they come in and grab snacks and drinks, some of them stay in the kitchen with the adults, or the "office", choosing which records to play.

At some point we'll move because I don't want to live in this part of town forever, but I do despair at the thought of losing my gathering space. I love it since we changed it.
posted by cooker girl at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


We entertain with some frequency and I would not want to live someplace that didn't have a dining room, preferably one that is mostly but not completely open to the kitchen. Frankly, I would be overjoyed if ours were twice as big.

I do think it's true that most living rooms and dining rooms are underutilized. However, it's worth noting that these were not rooms that traditionally were used with any great frequency. For example, a parlor, for those fortunate to have one 150 years ago, might have been used almost exclusively for the reception of visiting guests. The same might be true of a dining room as well.

In my opinion, the decline of entertaining as a form of social interaction has had much to do with this. It used to be the case that most people who could afford it would throw a cocktail party or have guests over for dinner at least once a year, if not more often. Nowadays this custom has largely disappeared and most people not only don't entertain but don't have the slightest idea how to do so. This has reduced the functional utility of having living rooms and dining rooms as spaces for convivial gatherings.

Coupled with this has been the explosion in the square footage of suburban homes. When I was a kid we spent lots of time in the living room because that's where the stereo, television, comfortable reading chairs and fireplace were. In a house where these things are in an informal "family room" there is less reason to spend time in the living room (this is exactly what happened when my parents moved from the Boston-area house where I grew up to a much larger house in central Houston). Similarly, a family with an eat-in kitchen capable of seating six has less reason to spend time in the dining room (ditto). If the owners of that house don't entertain at all -- and most don't -- there really is little reason for them to have a separate living room and dining room. That said, if the family would like to host a big family dinner even as infrequently as on a quarterly basis (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day), there may be some reason to have a dining room. My parents were frequent entertainers and as many as a dozen family members stayed in the house for the holidays, so the dining room and living room saw a lot of use on this basis. But if that hadn't been the case, their living room and dining room would absolutely have been wasted space.
posted by slkinsey at 12:39 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've owned three houses - starter home that was about 1200 sq. feet, larger detached duplex* home in VA burbs of DC that was about 2200 sq. feet, and a 4300 square foot McMansion which we sold last November as we downsized to a 1600 sq. foot rental home.

The McMansion had a formal dining room that we probably ate 10 meals in total in 15 years. The formal living room had french doors to close it off and when I sold the 15-year-old furniture I swear it could pass for brand new off the showroom floor. The finished basement never seemed large when it was covered in GI Joe's and Barbie dolls, but with the kids grown, I realized the basement was larger than our entire first house.

I don't miss the space at all. I think I spend a lot more time with my wife now that I don't have a basement home theater to hide in or my home office in the 4th bedroom. My home office is in what passes for a dining room in this house, and we only have the one family room to watch TV in so we do a lot more of it together. The only thing I miss is exterior storage. I'd really like a shed.

* Single family home that is about 10 feet from the neighbors. That doesn't work with zoning, so they drop a piece of rebar between the two foundations so that the houses are "touching" and thus they are legally duplexes.
posted by COD at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


700 sq foot 2 bedroom apartment is sacrificing informal living and/or storage space. New builds in my area run this size. If the designer chooses to have 2 bathroom, in suite laundry, and a “den” (the usual configuration) you barely have room for queen size beds, a twin and a desk in a child’s room is unthinkable, and quite possibly you get a couch/tv or a dining set in the living area but not both.

Older buildings would get a larger living area in 700 sq ft, at the trade off of limited or no in suite storage, no laundry, only 1 bathroom ... basically not family friendly.

I cannot imagine the need for formal living and dining space, but I still need space. Take me back to 900 sq ft for two bedrooms please so we can have informal living space and personal amenities. The no living room backlash has gone too far in urban condo construction.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I definitely agree with this article, but then I grew up in a 3 bedroom manufactured home with a family of 6 and every inch of that space had to be used for day-to-day stuff, regardless of what intention there might have been in the floorplan. I feel like the solution to the "not enough space for Thanksgiving/entertaining" problem would be better solved by making the spaces you do use bigger (e.g. larger living rooms and kitchens (and bathrooms and bedrooms), or kitchen-attached dining/great rooms that can be used for your day-to-day dining needs) rather than having a separate spaces for them.

Granted, right now I live in a small apartment with one other person, so it hasn't exactly come up as an issue for me personally. :P
posted by Aleyn at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I second the author's point that people don't need as much space as they think they do.

It really does depend on layout more than sheer square footage.
Our friends a block over have essentially the same house we do - built at the same time, same exterior square footage, bedrooms in the same location, front hall in the same place, same yard, etc.

But because of different design decisions made on the inside, their house flows much better for parties and gatherings.
And it's very small things that make the difference - We have a fancy wall in our entrance, looks great, useful most of the time, but it clogs up the entrance way when people are coming in and out.
Their kitchen (same size) is oriented longitudinally which gives them a long counter for people to hang out whereas ours goes front to back which cuts it off from the patio doors and makes it hard to "hang out".

Tiny changes can make a huge difference in whether gatherings in your small house feel cramped and uncomfortable or crowded but lively.
posted by madajb at 12:43 PM on July 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


I've thought more than once that if I could just attach an eat-in kitchen, bedroom, office, and bathroom to a really gigantic room for my library--perhaps with a big hallway that could be used for book expansion--I would be set. That is...not how houses are constructed, however, so instead I have a lot of space that isn't where I really need it to be. (At some point in the next few years, I will move my office downstairs into what is currently the formal dining room and move the dining room into the space between the kitchen and the first family room.)

A few years ago, I sublet an Edwardian-era converted flat near Highgate while I was doing some work at the British Library, and while it certainly failed to pass the "can I get my books in here?" test, I did admire the incredible efficiency of the storage spaces (floor-to-ceiling hidden cupboards, built-in armoire, shelves tucked in everywhere, etc.).

It really does depend on layout more than sheer square footage.

Also true for eccentrics like myself: I've looked at houses with 1000 or so more sq ft than mine that would be absolutely useless for books (usually because of too many windows, but also b/c of odd wall lengths/angles or too few walls, a lifetime supply of knee walls on the upper story, etc.).
posted by thomas j wise at 12:47 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


I once hosted Thanksgiving for 10 people in a 700-square foot Brooklyn 2-bedroom apartment. People definitely don't need as much space as they think they do.

I've done this on multiple occasions in a Manhattan 2BR that is slightly larger. I wouldn't say it's easy to accommodate that many people around the dining table, and we're extremely fortunate to even have a dining space capable of accommodating a table of that size -- not to mention having a drop+insert leaf table capable of scaling from a 4 top to a 10 top so we don't have our living space constantly dominated by a giant dining table. Some of this also depends on what one's ideas are as to "hosting X number of people for dinner" means. In my mind, it doesn't include gatherings in which people are balancing plates on their laps or hunching over the coffee table to eat. For sure I've thrown that sort of affair with as many as 30 people, but I wouldn't say this means I hosted 30 people for dinner.
posted by slkinsey at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I second the author's point that people don't need as much space as they think they do.

Is that the author's point, though? Or is it that "people don't need to have extra space that is set aside expressly and exclusively for social/entertaining use, and is otherwise off-limits during the rest of everyday life"?

It's a small distinction, but an important one, I think - it's the difference between "we have this big room that we have all our parties in when we have people over, and when we aren't having parties it's the sewing/craft/workout/gaming/project/TV/cat jousting room" or whatever, and "we have this big beautiful living room, but the kids aren't allowed to set foot in it because it's the formal room for when we have company and we're afraid they'll get things dirty".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on July 20, 2018 [16 favorites]


We all want to feel like power hosts, extremely likeable and sociable people who are the life of the party.
lol wut
posted by drlith at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


I agree that people saying "but wait, I need my comfortably-sized multipurpose living/dining area that I also use every day in order to entertain large groups" are sort of missing the point of the article being about formal entertaining spaces. But I think there's also an interesting discussion to be had about how this can go too far in the other direction. I've lived in two cities during my adult life: Chicago, and DC. DC's average housing cost is a little under twice that of Chicago. Chicago also has 3 times as much land area as DC (and that's not even counting the fact that a big portion of DC is Park Service land).

The result of this is that DC homes are, for the most part, small, and this is especially true if you want to live in a "trendy" neighborhood; you'll usually have to buy a condo. When I lived in Chicago, new friends immediately invited me into their homes. In DC, there are people I've known for years whose homes I've never stepped foot in. I'm not here to judge anyone who wants their home to be a private place; that's fine, but I think we've started to value the happy hour and the boozy brunch over low-key home entertaining so much that you almost have to be a) a drinker b) with a lot of disposable income if you want friends here. The result is now an almost comical propagation of bars and cafes that look like a home living room. We've pushed socialization out of the home and thus made it a lot more class-exclusive. (In fact, I was just thinking of the fact that going out costs money. I now remembered that bars and venues also have "dress codes" that look suspiciously like coded racial segregation. So that is also a thing.) I think that's actually a valuable conversation to have here as well.
posted by capricorn at 1:00 PM on July 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


It's a small distinction, but an important one, I think - it's the difference between "we have this big room that we have all our parties in when we have people over, and when we aren't having parties it's the sewing/craft/workout/gaming/project/TV/cat jousting room" or whatever, and "we have this big beautiful living room, but the kids aren't allowed to set foot in it because it's the formal room for when we have company and we're afraid they'll get things dirty".

I think that's exactly it.

The house I grew up in and my in-laws have pretty much the same number and types of rooms in the main living space. My parents have a large eat-in kitchen, dining room, living room (piano, no TV), and den (TV); my in-laws, the situation described with formal dinning room and sitting room at the front of the house, and then a living room and kitchen in an open concept layout in the back. (My parent's house is about 1000 sq ft smaller, but I think a lot of that is due to not having the huge McMansion master bedroom/bath.)

But we actually used all four rooms growing up in my house; my in-laws didn't/don't. We ate dinner in the dining room; the dining room and living room were generally used for large format tent building/train construction/art projects, since the den is tiny. The living room is still the default "hang out" room; you go in the den if you're planning on watching something, or all the good spaces are taken in the living room.

Decorating is a huge signal for this: my in laws have white carpets, white upholstery, and lots of breakable things in the formal rooms. It's pretty clearly "be on your best behavior here". My parents have the dining room and living room nicely, but comfortably, decorated. So, they get used during day to day life.
posted by damayanti at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


Or is it that "people don't need to have extra space that is set aside expressly and exclusively for social/entertaining use, and is otherwise off-limits during the rest of everyday life"

That seems awfully presumptuous about how people live vs how we say they are supposed to live. That's fine if it's causing negative impacts, but it's so abstracted here that I don't feel comfortable crossing that line.

I'd only go so far as to say you don't like what you think are extra rooms? Then change zoning and taxing policy to get rid of them. People can use their rooms in their own homes however they want.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:03 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


All I can think of is the ridiculous monstrosity of a McMansion my parents live in--three floors, finished basement, six bedrooms, three living rooms, enough bathrooms I kept getting lost ...and three people live in the damn thing full time. Parties never happen. Entertaining rarely happens, and when it does it's a handful of people. They really seem to live in about forty percent of the house, which... why own and clean the rest of it? It still attracts a lot of dust and has to be heated or cooled, which puts your HVAC bill up like nothing else, and it seems silly to me to design a house for the 20% of the time you expect it to be full of people when you still have to maintain it 100% of the time.

I meanwhile live in a four-bedroom, one-story place with three other adults, and we do have folks over fairly frequently with plenty of space in our single kitchen/living room area. It's a touch cramped, but it's easier to keep clean for the rest of the time we use it. More adults to clean things, too. It's about perfect, once we expanded the kitchen a little bit, because there's a big open kitchen/living area space that people can drift through and the bedrooms are easy to close off.

One other thing that I find is that if you have pets, rarely-used spaces are much more likely to get picked as quiet, comfortable places to commit bodily atrocities indoors. And when those happen, they're much less likely to get discovered quickly than in frequently-used houses, which can lead to some deeply unpleasant situations. So you wind up with these big impressive spaces studded with baby gates that barely stretch across the imposing, open entryways so that the dog doesn't pee in the finished basement back by the pool table again, or with doors that are always closed off on pain of the cat getting in there. It... dampens the effect somewhat, I find.
posted by sciatrix at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


If you entertain people a lot, it's really nice to have dedicated space for it. It makes the whole thing much easier: you just cook the food and lay the table, and you don't have to remove your books or your ironing board or a mountain of bills. During the last years I've accumulated a lot of stuff I don't know where to put (family have died and I still haven't sorted it all), and I can feel I am not as hospitable anymore, because I'm using our dining room and living room for piles of stuff. It's not that we didn't use those spaces in our everyday lives before, it's just that they were uncluttered open spaces suitable for eating and dancing and maybe building a huge model train track, but not for hanging out and doing homework/work, snacking, watching TV etc.
posted by mumimor at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]




That seems awfully presumptuous about how people live vs how we say they are supposed to live. That's fine if it's causing negative impacts, but it's so abstracted here that I don't feel comfortable crossing that line.

See, I think that's exactly the author's point. The title of the article is that "Our Houses Don't Need Formal Spaces", not "Extra Spaces". Some people use their spare "rooms we entertain in" for other general-purpose stuff when they're not entertaining, and some preserve the spare "rooms we entertain in" rooms in pristine unsullied states and force the rest of the family to leave that as unoccupied space. It's that behavior, the "this is only for formal entertaining and otherwise back off," that the author is talking about, I think - it's a definite aspirational class/status signifier, kind of like saying "I am so wealthy I can afford to have entire rooms in my house that I don't use except for maybe twice a year".

Having a spare room that gets used for several purposes, only one of which is "for entertaining", could be aspirational, but it could also be "my life is a little more complicated and messy than average and the extra space is getting used to contain it".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


New houses are designed for sales appeal, not for living in. Otherwise, they'd have vastly better insulation, and be oriented for solar/ cooling breezes, whatever.
I want a fair amount of storage for my projects, and, yes, I may never finish them, but I have all this stuff and I do not choose to discard it at this time.
My friend renovated her gorgeous Victorian house so she could do AirBnB and thereby afford to live there, and she now has her bookcases in her dining room. It's a good combination, also books provide insulation.
My house is appallingly poorly designed/ renovated/ built. I am slowly reversing some of the worst of it. I bought this crappy little house because of the view, and the house is not designed to maximize the view. It's also wrong for solar. I do get lovely breezes, but I'm in Maine, so, kind of a given for the few months a year one can leave the windows open.
I do have a big deck so if I entertain a group, it's probably going to be in warm weather.

Part of me, a part that is hella crazy, wants to find land and build a house with gobs of insulation, solar panels and solar water pre-heating, and design that is for living in easily. My financing plan is to have a bundle of cash fall from the sky. The cash is to pay for therapy for dealing with builders while female.
posted by theora55 at 1:15 PM on July 20, 2018 [21 favorites]


Tiny changes can make a huge difference in whether gatherings in your small house feel cramped and uncomfortable or crowded but lively.


The way you arrange your furniture and, for that matter, the furniture you choose, can make a huge difference too.

The first year in my house, I hosted my family's Easter do. I have a long, narrow combination living/dining room. (I believe there used to be an archway between the two rooms, but it was taken out at some point.) When I first moved in, I put the dining table and chairs at one end of the room, two armchairs and my three bookcases at the other end, and the couch in the middle of the room against one wall while the TV sat on my cedar chest, which was placed against the opposite wall. People wanted to talk and they moved some of the chairs to be near the couch, which created a bottleneck in the middle of the room. Anyone who wanted to get from one end of the room to the other had to exit the room through one of the French doors and walk through the hallway to get to the other French door.

The next year, remembering this, I rearranged the furniture on Easter weekend. For several hours, I pushed things here and I pushed them there, trying out different ideas on how to arrange things. In the end I put the couch against the windows at the end of the the room, and the armchairs against the walls adjoining each end of the couch, which created a good conversation area. I left the biggest bookcase against the wall at one end of the couch, but I moved the two smaller ones to the middle of the room and put them against the walls where the couch had been. I moved the cedar chest out into the hallway. I like to sit on it to put on my shoes, and I can also access the games and Christmas decorations that are stored in it so much more easily now then when the TV sat on it. The TV went up to my bedroom and sat on a little stand I had until I bought a better one for it. The dining room table and china cabinet stayed where they were.

The room looked so much more spacious and gracious after I'd finished moving things about that I ended up deciding I had space for an upright piano, which I have since bought, and I placed it against the wall in the middle of the room, opposite the two low bookcases. Now when I entertain people can sit either on the couch and chairs at the one end of the room, or at the dining room table at the other end. There are always a few people in the middle section of the room, grazing from the platters of finger food I set out on the tops of the low bookcases, or sitting on the piano bench in order to eat or fool around on the piano, but otherwise the area stays clear and people can walk freely from one end of the room to the other.
posted by orange swan at 1:16 PM on July 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


I don't know if I disagree with the article or just think it doesn't especially apply to my life.

We have two toddlers and live in a house with an open plan and no closets on the first floor. It is incredibly difficult to have people over because the corner where the kids play, even when they are not spreading their toys in a thin layer all over the house, is visible from most points on the first floor. Basically ANY mess is visible nearly everywhere.

We would have people over for dinner a lot more if we had a dining space that we could sequester off from the daily mess. One of our goals for our next house is exactly that: to host a regular monthly or biweekly dinner as a way of building community.
posted by gauche at 1:20 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you entertain people a lot, it's really nice to have dedicated space for it. It makes the whole thing much easier: you just cook the food and lay the table, and you don't have to remove your books or your ironing board or a mountain of bills.

This.

And, I don't really see the distinction between a "formal" living room or dining room and just a living room or dining room. A dedicated space is a dedicated space. It all depends how you treat it and what you do with it. But in the final analysis, a room is just a room. There's no law saying that a room one family might use as a living room dedicated mostly as an entertaining space couldn't be used by another family as the music room or whatever.
posted by slkinsey at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


The way you arrange your furniture and, for that matter, the furniture you choose, can make a huge difference too.

Finding furniture that truly fits the scale of a small room that is also not a quajillion dollars worth of meticulously crafted midmod replica is difficult if not impossible. We tend to get furniture from IKEA because it tends to be smaller but it's still not really small enough. Like, why are the arms of my sofa 10 inches wide?
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:28 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I use my dining room all the time. Of course, I love having dinner parties. Also, my entire house is less than 1000 square feet, so . . .
posted by thivaia at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


You don't need a wine cellar... IF you're going to do wine tastings in your butler's kitchen.

Quit playing, Montresor, we all know there used to be a wine cellar until you had Fortunato over to check out that Amontillado.
posted by juv3nal at 1:44 PM on July 20, 2018 [14 favorites]


And, I don't really see the distinction between a "formal" living room or dining room and just a living room or dining room.

A "formal" room is one you don't use except for Events.
It's kept closed or is otherwise off limits because it has the nice furniture that your mom doesn't want your friends getting dirty.
It's the room where the fancy Christmas tree lives.
The room where the once a year family portrait is taken.
The room that holds the sideboard inherited from great-aunt Susan.

It is decidedly _not_ the room where you watch the game on Sunday afternoons.
It is not the room where your toddler plays with cars or your teenagers do homework.
Your friends have pizza in the dining room, your boss has dinner in the formal dining room.
Pets are not allowed on the chairs in the formal living room or even allowed in at all.

The formal room isn't a room, it's a Room.
posted by madajb at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


soren_lorensen, check out sectionals. At least some of them will sell you a two-seat armless section as an 'apartment sofa' or some such name. I had a space in my teeny tiny living room that was 64 inches wide, but any loveseat that fit would have to involve skinny or very friendly people. So I got a two seat section that was 63 inches wide and fits like it was built in, and has plenty of space for two people or three kids.

The cushions do tend to move around more, but not crazily so.
posted by tavella at 1:55 PM on July 20, 2018


Finding furniture that truly fits the scale of a small room that is also not a quajillion dollars worth of meticulously crafted midmod replica is difficult if not impossible.

So true. But also such an American problem. I bought an 800 sqft co-op. And the layout is actually very smart. I've got three storage closets, plus the two closets in each bedroom. The kitchen is cramped, but only because a prior owner tried to fit classic American appliances. It's been hard to put off buying bits of furniture because I know those extra six inches will make the space feel cramped.

It's hard for me to hide my messes in the new place. But I agree with the writer and feel that expectation is something we borrowed from the upper class without critically examining the benefit. It's one thing to want a space where it's comfortable to entertain, if that happens to be your jam. But we should critically ask ourselves if we make lives better by feeling the need to always put forward a tidy attractive image of ourselves.

I think it creates more distance, and isolates us, because we're unsure if we're accepted as our true selves or our photoshopped instagram worthy selves. I know it will take a lot of discomfort to put our true selves out there, a lot of trust that our friends will shut down judgey gossip rather than worry our dirty dishes broadcast possible trouble at home. But I also think it's work worth doing.
posted by politikitty at 2:00 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


And, I don't really see the distinction between a "formal" living room or dining room and just a living room or dining room.

i can't believe i'm referencing a stephen king book but: the best description of a formal living room or parlor, and of how adults of previous generations treated them, is in the stand, when frannie describes her memory of how she fell off her bike and was bleeding horribly with a broken arm, and she staggered home into the parlor where her awful mother was entertaining, and how she would always remember that her mom's first reaction was to scream GET OUT OF THE ROOM bc she was dripping blood onto the flawless dove grey carpet, and not to comfort her horribly injured and bleeding child.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:00 PM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


There's no law saying that a room one family might use as a living room dedicated mostly as an entertaining space couldn't be used by another family as the music room or whatever.

This.

Because we don't have family nearby, a guest room is a huge benefit. But we also use our guest room as the den/TV room, because we are never watching TV when we have overnight guests so the uses are totally compatible.
posted by gauche at 2:00 PM on July 20, 2018


I agree with the author, and continue to be aghast at the proliferation of lofty entries and cathedral ceilings in private homes. High ceilings are great in public spaces, often grand, and made to emphasize your own smallness. In a house - not so much. I firmly believe that one of the reasons those Rooms don't get used is because they just aren't comfortable - they don't provide a 'sheltered' feeling.
I've long been a proponent of the "Not So Big House" - and was just shocked to learn it came out 20 years ago! Sadly, few seem to have truly embraced the principles (which are NOT "tiny homes"). A thoughtfully designed home can provide room to entertain, and places to be 'away' without racking up thousands of square feet.
posted by dbmcd at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


I dunno, man. I host Thanksgiving every year in my minuscule kitchen, all of us cramped around a tiny square table that I pull out for that one day a year. I have friends over at least monthly and one of us sits on the cushion on the floor because I only have 3 comfy seats. I mean, at 46, I know I won’t be sitting on the floor forever. But I just can’t see increasing my rent a thousand bucks (or more) a month to get a place with more room. I guess if I could get those things for the same rent, I would. But otherwise, meh.
posted by greermahoney at 2:24 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned the bigger wastes of money and space are garages and show kitchens.

Most people don't care about their cars more than the fact that they are working and yet 1/2 of the footprint of a house will be used for a garage when the car could just stay on the driveway and the people could get more space in their house. Of course a lot of times the city will require houses to have garages. When I was in the planning stage for my house I fought the city and lost over building an additional room instead of a garage.

As far as the fancy kitchens are concerned most people don't really use them but have them because they're supposed to or the previous owner put one in to increase the value of the house before selling it. A smaller kitchen, or at least one with less emphasis on making food and more on storing and heating packaged foods, would fit how most people actually use their kitchens and save a lot of money.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:29 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I adore cathedral ceilings in a home. So much so that I've built two that way and bought another specifically because of it. I love the feeling of space and livability high ceilings bring. I find, combined with big windows, high ceilings go a huge long way to alleviating SAD and other seasonal/light issues.

Now lets be clear: the cathedral ceilings are in all cases used in the most commonly occupied areas of the houses. In all three houses, they're over the family/living rooms where everyone spends their time. In two cases, these are integrated with the kitchens as well.

In short, done right, high ceilings are awesome, in my view. In many McMansions, like most of those designs for sale, they're terribly, criminally used in utterly inappropriate rooms and engender feelings of sterility and alienation as a result, rather than creating a sense of rest and space as they should.
posted by bonehead at 2:32 PM on July 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


Couldn't read all of the comments, but we have a Room of Requirement where our formal living room should be. It just has a huge rug and a stand with a lamp, and an English pub table. Sometimes we do yoga in there. Sometimes more exercises. Sometimes it's where we put the party because the kitchen is small. And sometimes we just lie on the carpet and enjoy some extra space where we don't put anything.

Oh, and there are plants! One of the best rooms in our house!
posted by Snowishberlin at 2:32 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


In a northern climate, a two car garage---two cars wide---is an almost sinfully good indulgence. We both have longer commutes. Not having to clean cars off in the morning and being able to drive into a protected space AND CLOSE THE DOOR at night after a long cold commute home is an enormous luxury.
posted by bonehead at 2:34 PM on July 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'd happily live in an airplane hanger.

I have long wanted a super-gigantic open plan building in which I could live in a gaggle of disconnected mobile autonomous rooms that drive around the huge space using flocking algorithms and machine learning. Major services would be located at static points, but power would be distributed using an overhead grid (like bumper cars).

...time to use the bathroom? Then the living room caroms on over to the bath pod.

Nice day outside? The living room drives along the south window wall, tracking the sun angle.

Wildly, hideously, unspeakably inefficient and wasteful. Perhaps 75% of the space would be used only for driving the rooms around.

Hella fun though. Bumper cars with all the rooms of your house!
posted by aramaic at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


yo aramaic the absence of "forklift racing room" from our vocabulary just goes to show how insidious the stale design patterns pointed out in the article really are.
posted by 7segment at 2:39 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Most people don't care about their cars more than the fact that they are working and yet 1/2 of the footprint of a house will be used for a garage when the car could just stay on the driveway and the people could get more space in their house.

Have you ever gotten into a car that's been parked outside in 90+ degree heat? Or 100+ degree heat? Some shelter for the car feels, I assure you, very necessary at that point. I presume other climates have their own weather-related reasons for wanting a garage. That said, a covered car port over the driveway would probably serve just as well, though I tend to think that's not aesthetically ideal.

What I don't get is the people in my parents' neighborhood who treat the garage as an extra living room. All the houses in the tract are built along the same plans, so I know all those houses have a living room/den and a sitting room/parlor, plus a small upstairs den in some of the models. So why end up in the garage when you have 2-3 other options, four if you include the backyard patio? What are people using the other 2-3 rooms for? Why hang out in the unairconditioned/unheated and still mostly enclosed garage? I get it for the people doing some kind of work in there, but otherwise it's more or less the last place I'd want to hang out or entertain, apart from the bathroom.
posted by yasaman at 2:47 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Of course a lot of times the city will require houses to have garages. When I was in the planning stage for my house I fought the city and lost over building an additional room instead of a garage.

Garages as storage space make more sense in areas without full basements/attics. Americans plain have a lot of stuff. Along those same lines, garage conversions were very popular in the Texas middle-class neighborhood I purchased a home in. It functioned as a finished basement in an area where all the houses were built on slab - so it would either be the kid's rumpus room or it would be the man-cave.

Now I've moved to California and the garage on my rental is literally nailed closed so I couldn't use it as a carport even if I wanted to, which I do.
posted by muddgirl at 2:53 PM on July 20, 2018


As far as the fancy kitchens are concerned most people don't really use them but have them because they're supposed to or the previous owner put one in to increase the value of the house before selling it. A smaller kitchen, or at least one with less emphasis on making food and more on storing and heating packaged foods, would fit how most people actually use their kitchens and save a lot of money.

um. that one might actually just be you. at least, everyone I know cooks in their kitchen... even if they wind up making large portions of meals ahead to freeze them...

and the garage is a useful storage location, and I'd use mine for that more if it was an actual garage and not a carport.

any portmanteau in a storm, it... might be possible that "most people" isn't as universal as you think.
posted by sciatrix at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


A "formal" room is one you don't use except for Events.

I’ve always thought a formal room is for when you are entertaining people you wouldn’t groom yourself in front of - like the difference between the rooms is not about the decoration of the room itself but about a barrier between intimates and acquaintances.
posted by corb at 2:57 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


As we currently live five people in a very small rental, which has a living room/dining room mushed together, and a small (though efficient!) kitchen, and that's IT for public spaces, I cannot fucking wait to move into a house I own that has two separated public spaces -- living room and rec room, whatever. My kids are noisy all the goddamned time and there is nowhere else to send them, especially when the weather's bad. (When it's good I can make them go outside.) I'll probably follow the model of having a "formal" living room that's a bit nicer and arranged for conversation and reading and grown-ups escaping their children and not every surface is covered in children's crap, and an "informal" rec room for TV and video games and dirty sweaty children.

Before I had kids I was totally cool with one holistic living space, but now that my kids are big and noisy and have their own priorities, preferences, and hobbies, I would really like a room that ISN'T FOR THEM so I can have a conversation with my spouse or a glass of wine with a friend without 47 tiny people climbing up me with sticky hands. The formality comes almost entirely from a) the couch not having chocolate handprint stains on it and b) it being clean because toys haven't exploded all over it.

I'm agnostic on formal dining rooms, as long as the dining area (formal or informal!) is large enough that I can put the leaves in the table, as I frequently need to! We do sit down for a formal meal as a family at least once a week (with the china and the silver and fancy foods), so I actually would use it on the regular, and I have people over for dinner a lot, but I'm comfortable doing those things in a great room or an eat-in kitchen or whatever. Actually the boon of a formal dining room would be space to spread out projects and leave them for a few days since nobody's otherwise using that space. (I've thought it through, I'd get a storage cabinet that looks fancy and whose sole purpose is storing away in-progress projects when I need to use the table for eating.)

Some day when my children are grown I'll be content to have just one living area again, but right now GIVE ME A FORMAL LIVING ROOM OR GIVE ME DEATH/INCESSANT HEADACHES FROM MY NOISY CHILDREN!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


Our rooms and the furniture we choose impact our day-to-day existence in a meaningful way. On one couch, we'll gratefully flop down and stick our feet up on the nearest coffee table. On another, we'll sit a little straighter and resist the last cookie. I think it's aspirational to have a living room so formal you don't go in it until you're trying to prove something to the neighbors over the holidays, but I get the allure. I think Americans are a particularly aspirational people, who focus on appearances over practical reality. This article seems to argue for reality over imaginary allure, rather than against extra space entirely. If you have need for two living rooms that function slightly differently, that seems entirely reasonable. We contain multitudes, so should our spaces.

I live alone in a 1000sq ft. apartment, which feels enormous from my last place. I have a tiny kitchen with a teensy pantry, a bedroom big enough to also have my desk and digital piano, and two - two! - living rooms. One room, which I call the den, has a soft squishy sofa, a big bookcase, and the TV. The other has a blush pink velour chesterfield-style sofa, an antique cedar chest, and large palm. I *love* having a more formal living space. I love having a living room that *doesn't* have a TV in it. I bought a TV for the first time in my adult life (I'm mid-30s) and I worried so much about tilting the focus and purpose of my living room to paying homage to a TV. Now, I get to have it both ways, where I can toss on Netflix and crack a beer, or I can read the latest New Yorker in an elegant space. I'm noticeably happier in this apartment which provides space for me to do all the things I love, and live in all the ways I want.
posted by missmary6 at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


A smaller kitchen, or at least one with less emphasis on making food and more on storing and heating packaged foods, would fit how most people actually use their kitchens and save a lot of money.

Another of my wife's ridiculously wealthy clients would be in the state you describe. They'd be much better off with a small closet where they reheat packaged food. Instead they have a kitchen entirely tiled in marble and combi oven that they had but didn't know how to use and many other "luxury for home" appliances that you'd fine in a high-end hotel kitchen.

But saying that, I know very few people who don't actually cook in their kitchens, fancy or not. I can only think of one of my friends who'd even be approaching that and they have a medically fragile kid. So I'm not sure I agree that "most people" are in that state but I may know a different class of people.
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:43 PM on July 20, 2018


Big House Culture is fucking weird -- definitely one of the more perplexing things about suburbia. People making themselves "house poor" just so they can live in a 5 bedroom house, even though they only have like 2 kids.

Of course, as much as I deride such things, I can't pretend to have escaped it completely. Here in NYC, we've got our own ridiculous markers of social status.
posted by panama joe at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2018


an actual separate kitchen with a door that closes is like the versailles of nyc
posted by poffin boffin at 3:49 PM on July 20, 2018 [18 favorites]


Also, much love for Kate Wagner -- if you like this piece, you should definitely check out her excellent blog, McMansion Hell.
posted by panama joe at 3:49 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


When marriage equality became the law of the land, my mother started to immediately lament my fifteen-year bout of comfortable solitude (when dragged on for another five before someone was persistent enough to lure me out of my happy monastic existence), wistfully saying "I've always hoped that you'd meet a nice fellow, settle down, and restore a Victorian."

In my queer youth, I would have been right on that page, but as an adult—oh hell no.

"You're wishing I had a life of never-ending housepainting and absurd utility bills?"

She just rolled her eyes, but it's true—my love of the grandiose formal is mostly dead.

I'm still running in circles that treasure that stuff, whether it's the horror of BBC-inspired romance for ye lovely olde days of having a serfdom to maintain your idiotically large house or the sort of Hollywood fantasia of immense glassed-in peoplequariums looking out on azure swimming pools and palm trees, but I'm increasingly inclined to see such daydreams as the signs of something diseased in our culture that came into fruition when Robin Leach took up training us for envy. You're heating all those spaces, and you're air-conditioning them, too, unless you live somewhere that never warms up, just paying big bills month after month to keep open the door of I could be one of those glamorous people, who say wry things over canapés or stuffy courses of forced civility around an obnoxiously long dining table at which one presumes oneself to be gentry instead of just suburban aspirants to dead empires.

A few years ago, as I was working for a museum and keeping myself in fine cheeses with a few side hustles, I was doing a fair amount of fancypants art-handling work, and I was engaged by the owner of a converted church to build mounting frames for two immense canvases and install them flanking the balcony looking over the former sanctuary. The place was a knockout, and young queer me stirred in the dimly lit deep reaches of my brain. Rich, beautifully characterful wood, huge open spaces, gorgeous detail, formality out the gazoo...and monthly utilities so high if one hoped to live within the range of temperatures consistently regarded as habitable by our species that they almost doubled the take-home pay I made as a guy at the bottom end of the definition of middle class. It was such a open, expansive feeling, knowing that I'd stopped lusting after such things.

[That place is for sale, if that's your cup of tea. I hung the two arched paintings.]

It was a great introduction into the world of the extinction of the deadly sin of envy, and it's only become easier to me since then, with a decade of art-handling gigs under my belt in more one-percenty social circles, where I pull on white cotton gloves, wheel ninety-thousand-dollar Victorian Aesthetic Period furniture into houses of such finery that you wouldn't even dream of placing your blue collar buttocks on the $1200-per-yard velour coupe upholstery of anything, and look around with a gee whiz feeling that's even better because I get to see these things and places, but then don't have to own any of them. I admire the workmanship and the detail, and am happy as a damn lark when I'm back in my own tiny apartment on my dog-scented only-slightly-rare Ikea reissue EKENÄSET sofa, where I'm enjoying a nice Cambozola omelette and tea.

I got plenty of nothing, and nothing's plenty for me, but

Thing is, I'm reminded of reviews of the Smart Fortwo, back when those came around, and the note that reviewers made about how the Smart car was engineered to use the crumple zones of other cars to absorb shock rather just lumber around with all the endless overhang of everything else. I am, in my way, perfectly comfortable to use other spaces for dining and socializing. I throw great backyard picnics, and silly events like "World's Tiniest Drive-In," where three friends sit on the bench seat of my old pickup truck and watch a film on a laptop on the dash with the sound plumbed into the speakers. I watched my gentleman caller and his fiddler friend as accompanists in the glorious shady dome of a weeping beech tree in nowhere Pennsylvania with the extraordinary Zane Campbell holding court. I've seen amazing people play house concerts in ridiculously small places, and have cultivated careers so that I could throw mixers in the machine room of an old clocktower. I have friends with open, expansive, flowing spaces and I curate their dinner parties, doing all the cooking in the heart of the house with a folded towel slung over my shoulder. I don't want to own this place, but I will happily participate in what it can be.

And the old formal places, well, they just feel more and more like everything I hated about going to church as a kid, having to comb my hair and sit up straight and dress up in binding, chafing, uncomfortable clothes in groups in which I had to be on my best behavior and not tell that story or share that anecdote or relate, however wittily, about when I briefly lived in an abandoned industrial chicken house on a government research center because—

Oh, okay, sorry.

"What do I do? I work in an office. Nothing special." It's a lie, but where would I even start?

Everything averages down, smooths out, becomes equal, but equal in the way that death and taxes are equal. The formal spaces give me the constrained feeling of a middle seat on a 737, where I have to tuck my elbows in and, after discreetly relocating my balls, clamp my legs together so that I don't manspread into someone else's space.

Why did we ever want these places?

My grandmother's house was rambling and immense, an ad hoc mansionette in low country Georgia, but she'd long since moved into the old dining room to avoid the stairs, and the library had been converted into "the back bedroom," with an absurdly huge oak bed. The parlor was intact, though—a forbidden, quiet, lonesome space of the nicest furniture in the house, and the nicest accouterments, hidden in the dark behind thick velvet drapes kept drawn in spite of windows that reached from the floor to eight feet up. We'd lurk in there, us kids, drawn by the admonishment that that was not a place for children, and it was as silent as the funeral space it had been many times since the house was built, and as cold. I only saw my grandmother entertain a guest there once in my life, and the rest of the time, it was closed up for future use, perhaps when she would eventually lie there herself, waxen for respects before finger sandwiches and the virulent tongues of mean old Southern ladies, who'd lean in to tell me, dabbing their tears with monogrammed silks, that my grandmother, God bless her soul, was the salt of the earth, and a pillar of the Church...but just between you, me, and a lamp post
posted by sonascope at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


We all know that people like to party in the kitchen. (That's because humans are used to sitting in a circle around the fire, where the food is prepared.)

I thought it was about staking out close to the fridge so nobody stole your beer. At least, that's how it started in high school days. Past that -- habit. And the food, of course. Gotta be near the food.
posted by philip-random at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a family who had the living room with furniture all covered in plastic except when guests were visiting and the Dining Room That Was Only for Adults, and I'm also pretty sure that every living room we've ever had contained a piano that was never played by anyone. So I grew up with an ingrained contempt for trophy rooms and resolved to live in a house where every room was lived in.

Then, in my 20s and 30s, I lived in apartments that were shared with 1-3 roommates, and I think that inculcated in me a priority for A Room Of My Own. So when my wife and I finally bought our own place, we wound up buying a 4 bed / 1 bath, where we had our own bedroom and our own individual studies, and then bedroom #4 was our den/guest room , which is where we placed the TV and sleeper sofa. This is in addition to the kitchen, and the dining room, and the living room, and the porch, and the butler's pantry, and the private roof deck.

At first, we thought it was all a little extravagant. _Two_ offices! A living room with no TV in it! An entertaining space where all of your guests can _sit_ facing each other instead of standing in a circle in the kitchen, or one group looking at a blank TV! And it definitely is a bit much. But, you know, we use every room on the regular. As others said, it's pleasant to invite friends over for dinner and to have a space where they can gather for snacks and drinks while everyone arrives, and then sit down to dinner without having to re-arrange things. It is nice to have rooms where our individual chaos fields can be contained.

I used to have tiny dinner parties in my bachelor apartment where the kitchen island would become a counter height dinner table, and I had a set of folding stools to set up for when dinner was ready, and my back porch was the summer living room, and it was scrappy and bohemian, and cool, but fuck if I ever want to go back to that.

... ok, the private roof deck is a bit extravagant. But at least now we have it.
posted by bl1nk at 4:05 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


really though my dream home is the cambodian rubber plantation from apocalypse now; a big, rambling french colonial in dark tropical hardwoods, minus the war and imperialism and larry fishburne's grave in the backyard.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2018 [9 favorites]


The rate of people cooking at home has been trending down for a generation and this is counting things like heating a can of soup or frozen pizza as cooking. People entertain less at home too. So the show kitchen is the combination of 2 fantasies: I will cook all of these meals and I will have all of these get-togethers at my house. Some people actually will do both of these but I really don't think that most people will. And this isn't me projecting - we cook most of our meals, do a lot of entertaining and got ourselves a slightly showy kitchen as a result - but for most people I think the show kitchen gets as much use as the formal dining room.

I live in Toronto where we get snow as well as 90-degree days so I've woken up to the car covered in snow (or ice) as well as to the car being a furnace. When there's snow it is inconvenient to wipe it off our cars but I'm already out shoveling the driveway and the couple of minutes clearing the car is a kind of like a warm-up before shoveling. When it is hot I open the windows, turn on the A/C and start driving and things are fine in a couple of minutes. I'd rather have an extra 400-500 square feet of living space then the convenience of not having to deal with snow or a hot car.

At some point, say over 2500 square feet, you already have more space then you need so fine if you have the money get the show kitchen or 2+ car garage if that's what you want. But no one has the choice because every house has a garage and a newly renovated kitchen so everyone is paying for these things even if they'd prefer to have something else.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:16 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


We live in a pleasantly sized duplex in a pretty ritzy neighborhood (built in the 20s and 30s when duplexes were considered proper homes for spinster aunts and confirmed bachelors). One Halloween, we heard a kid coming to the door trick-or-treating who was horrified that our TV was right next to the front door and wondered why we would live like that. I realized every damn house on the street has a formal foyer, living room, and dining room, except those poor renters in the duplex.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:19 PM on July 20, 2018


You might think the living room the least used room in my house because we rarely go into it but it is the most used by our cats.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:21 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


We did end up with a big house but we really wanted a Victorian and except for a few converted carriage houses, you can't really find one around here smaller than 2000 square feet. Ours is 2700 square feet but being Pittsburgh was cheaper than a garden shed in most cities although in questionable repair when we bought it. It's actually cheap to heat because it's attached to a huge apartment building on one side and with a high-efficiency boiler, we only pay about $100 a month for gas.

We have like zero privacy because it's a townhouse built right on the sidewalk and the house on the other side of the apartment block is only about 15 feet away but it's worth it to live right in the center of the city.
posted by octothorpe at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Growing up, we lived in a house with a long, narrow kitchen and always ate in the dining room. I was always perplexed when I'd go over to people's houses and they'd have these fancy obviously never used dining rooms. (We lived in a ranch house in McMansion-land. I associated having stairs in your house meant you lived in an enormous cookie-cutter house.) When I was in eighth grade, we moved to an apartment with a more square kitchen and what had been a patio table became a kitchen table. My mom decided having a dining room you didn't use was silly and we put the dining table against a wall in the living room and that's where I did homework throughout high school. We put the TV in the "dining" room and re-arranged the living room furniture to pull the table out at holidays. Sometime after I went to college, my mom said "I ate my breakfast at that table every day for 20 years and I want a dining room" and we figured out a way to put the TV in the living room.

I don't really know what the point of this story is, other than some people want their formal spaces for everyday use. (I'd hazard this is some sort of class thing. I think a lot of things I that were unusual about my childhood were about class and I didn't realise because I saw everything growing up through the lens of nationality.)
posted by hoyland at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I grew up in a tiny little row house with a 10x10 dining room that somehow my mother turned into the most perfect entertaining space. And I lived in three tiny studio apartments but managed to throw parties for 20+ once a year at Christmas, shoving furniture into the walk-in closets and the storage unit downstairs to fit a bar cart and a karaoke machine.

After working my ass off for a decade (and stashing away money by living in those tiny studios), I was finally able to afford an apartment with a dining room, a gorgeous separate dining room with a huge bay window, and a table that seats 10 people comfortably...

...only to immediately thereafter acquire a partner who would literally rather gnaw a limb off than host anything or anyone in our home. The dining room still gets used for other stuff, but I think we've had two meals in it over 6 years.

I have fairly strong feelings about using all of the space in one's house and lots of unfond memories of the formal living rooms in my friends' homes growing up, but mostly I just wanted to vent about my stupid dining room.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:22 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Of all the amenities used to hype luxury apartment buildings, the one I would actually use is the "party room", typically with a big kitchen, an island/bar, tables, chairs, sofas, and a television, which residents can reserve. It seems like a pretty great solution for this problem. It's basically a rent-by-the-hour extension to your living space, stocked with everything you need to entertain.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:03 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Have you ever gotten into a car that's been parked outside in 90+ degree heat? Or 100+ degree heat?

I have, many times. I like it. Makes me feel sleepy and wiry.
posted by Automocar at 7:27 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I live in Minnesota, the idea of having a cavernous house filled with dozens of windows is just screaming "I don't care about heating costs!" or "I didn't think to care about heating costs!"
posted by Ferreous at 7:30 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Many times when contemplating buying a house I am reminded how much I hate most housing layouts and also why are we still using wooden balloon frame methods why can't we have super efficient homes with solar as a standard thing?

Homebuilding methods are still stuck in the 20th century or earlier, it's no wonder their aesthetic design is stodgy too.
posted by emjaybee at 8:53 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I feel totally outclassed, because I didn’t even know people had formal rooms like that. I mean, not since the Victorians. I’m sure I’ve been in rooms like that at some point, but I never realized people shut them off and only use them to entertain.

Our apartment is under 500 sq ft, with a slightly odd layout. I’m glad some people are able to be happy in small spaces, but I wish it wouldn’t be generalized along the lines of “everyone can make do with less space if they’re inventive!” I’m unhappy in such a small space, and we can’t invite people over because our apartment is too small for any more than the two of us. We’re not even the ones who decided that; our friends have all told us that our place is too small, and we go to friends’ houses instead. Makes it hard to initiate plans without inviting ourselves over.

I get the American culture is aspirational, but please let’s not get too philosophical here. I really want a house with room to have friends over and maybe even enough room that family can visit (I thought guest rooms were extravagant until my family brought that up). These are important facets of my social life, not class aspirations, and in the context of a bunch of people talking about this apparently common thing I wasn’t aware of, it’s hard not to feel, like I said, outclassed.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:55 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


“Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home. Late in life, with indomitable courage, we continue to say that we are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. This dream house may be merely a dream of ownership, the embodiment of everything that is considered convenient, comfortable, healthy, sound, desirable, by other people. It must therefore satisfy both pride and reason, two irreconcilable terms.”

-Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
posted by gucci mane at 9:51 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


Our apartment is under 500 sq ft, with a slightly odd layout. I’m glad some people are able to be happy in small spaces, but I wish it wouldn’t be generalized along the lines of “everyone can make do with less space if they’re inventive!”

I think we can pretty much dismiss these folks's opinions unless they also are living in sub-500 sq ft places as grown folks, which few to none of them are, bless their hearts.
posted by praemunire at 11:27 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


This thread is absolutely amazing. Like a museum of ethnography. As someone who's used to living in a 25 sq m studio and explicitly does _not_ want rooms (because hey, I can only be in one room at a time, so I'd have to spend my day walking from room to room in order to feel like I'm getting the most out of my rent, I guess?), all I can say is, thank you for this insight into the variation of the human experience.
posted by Vesihiisi at 11:57 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


My mom lives alone in an enormous, three-story house and loves having the space to host her five children and nine grandchildren. Whenever my boyfriend and I visit she insists we eat dinner in the formal dining room, even if it's only the three of us, and even if we're staying with her for an entire week. Lunch and breakfast can be in the huge, comfortable kitchen with breakfast nook, but dinner is served at the dining room table that seats 10+. She also believes that putting teabags in teacups instead of a teapot or setting a table with a bottle of ketchup rather than a ramekin is declasse, so.
posted by phoenixy at 2:20 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I live alone in a two bedroom house. Cool, I thought. I have a spare room. Except no, it is the cats' room and they get pretty sniffy about being kicked out by guests who then (horror!) shut the door.

If I had a formal dining room I would put a fold out bed there and leave the kitty room as it is. And maybe then I wouldn't have to spend half a day vacuuming before guests arrive.

Downstairs is open plan and means that the moment you open the door you can see what a complete tip it is.
posted by kitten magic at 4:08 AM on July 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


Such an architectural design opportunity for folding conversion rooms.

That dining room for twenty people can draw out a divider wall and two full hidden beds and rooms for a couple pair of overnight guests after the party. Slider doors in each entrance way for privacy. Given the size, maybe a choice of three possible types of conversion rooms.

Those well designed probably cost as much as some houses, though.
posted by filtergik at 4:27 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


As an adult, I've lived in a 400sq ft shack and an 800sq ft house and the main reason we moved from the latter (because in many other ways it was perfect) is so that we could have room for a) entertaining and b) hobbies. With a dining room that could only fit a four-seater table, I could never host family holidays or gatherings of more than, well, four. Our living room could only hold two pieces of furniture--a loveseat and a chair. We never had a Christmas tree (I made a 2D one out of felt and hung it on a wall after we had our son). We could never host the grandparents (there are four of them) for Christmas morning presents because there was nowhere for them to sit. And me developing any kind of hobby that required a space to work was out of the question, especially because my husband's hobby requires a lot of space and he pretty much requisitioned any free areas immediately. We moved to 1200 sq ft a couple years ago which is still small by American standards, but I feel like I can breathe and am not constantly tripping over toys/humans/furniture (if only I could get the dudes I live with to stop kicking off their shoes and leaving them in the middle of the floor). I have a desk! We have a Christmas tree! I can host both sets of grandparents for dinner or brunch!

So, yeah, I have a lot of ire for the everyone should live in a tiny house thing. It does impact quality of life if you have a family or interests other than sitting and reading quietly.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:56 AM on July 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


We all want to feel like power hosts, extremely likeable and sociable people who are the life of the party.

i want to feel like i've fulfilled the basic requirements of xenia such that i am not cursed by the gods but also do not have to have frequent or prolonged guests visiting.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


The average house size built in the US is 2400 sq ft, while the family sizes are shrinking due to delaying having kids, having fewer kids and an aging population.


There’s a ton of room between 1000 sqft per occupant and 175-250sqft per occupant. To present it as either/or and get mad that people want you to live an uncomfortable cramped lifestyle is operating in bad faith.
posted by politikitty at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


"for most people I think the show kitchen gets as much use as the formal dining room."

As evidenced by the number of people who renovate the kitchen solely to put the house on the market!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2018


I've only hosted two do's at mine, and it was awkward to have dinner for 8 in my living room. It's not a big room (and I don't want people spilling food on my furniture!), and the kitchen, while eat-in, is also not big. My apartment was built in the 1920s and meant for two people max. It's a place where in those days a young middle class couple would live before they bought their house in Westchester. I had more parties and dinners at my old flat in Brooklyn, but it had a dining room, a balcony and most importantly, wasn't far away from my friends. This place, its nice, but I'm in one of NYC's Siberias out here. ::sigh::

I wish I had what is called in New York City a "Classic Six" (living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a full bathroom). I've been in a few and they're lovely. I miss having a dining room. Where I grew up in Milwaukee, all houses and flats built up to the 1970s had a dining room, and it was used. My scary aunt kept it together enough to host Thanksgiving every other year or so, and our ca. 1880s house had a dining room that could hold up to 20, and sometimes did. And we also had a big backyard for BBQ's, but our landlord refused to maintain the the front or backyard lawns. There ended up being too many weeds and plants with needle-y points on them growing in after a few years to be able to use our yard for anything social.
posted by droplet at 9:02 AM on July 21, 2018


I will say the one thing I super-duper want for my next dining space (formal or informal!) is chairs that fucking stack. I love my table but the matching chairs suuuuuuuuuck, they have upholstered seats (which is to say, hard-to-clean cat-hair magnets) and they're huge and clunky, and when I've wanted to use the table to serve buffet style or as a party bar, they're in the way, and when I need extra chairs they have to be folding chairs because where would I store fucking extra gigantic wooden chairs? They look beautiful but they're wildly impractical and after 15 years I hate them. I'm getting lightweight chairs that fucking stack so when I don't want them I can stack them in a corner or stack them in a closet and I can store 2 or 4 spares that stack in a forgotten corner. (Probably something stylishly modern and minimalistic (probably acrylic) to contrast with my prairie-style wooden table.)

Also no more chairs with arms for the head and foot of the table, they just make it hard for people to get in and out and everyone tries not to have to sit in them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


For years, my solution to keeping dining chairs in my 600 square foot apartment was to hang four nice folding chairs from the wall like a Shaker would. Alas, my folding chairs died various crashing unexpected deaths over the years, but I'll probably get another set one day.
posted by sonascope at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also no more chairs with arms for the head and foot of the table, they just make it hard for people to get in and out and everyone tries not to have to sit in them.

You just made me think about where the two armed chairs are for my mom's dining room set. One sits near the table in a corner formed by the wall and cabinets, and stores her purse on the seat and the dog food tin below. The other one is in her bedroom where it collects clothes that (bonus) conceal the arm that the dog partially chewed off.
posted by Preserver at 10:47 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes my inner Quaker ancestors desire a peg rail to put all our hand crafted chairs on the wall when not in use.

Most of what gets people goat about modern architecture, unheatsble rooms, showy but impractical kitchens, rooms that never used, luxury towers that are ne Er lived and and fall apart in two years anyway , are based in the fact that these are not places designed to be lived in, they are financial objects in an arms race keep the game of musical chairs going. We’re getting near the point where we should just trade money and speculate on future, unbuilt property - saves the need to actually build the things.

Trust me the music stops, none of us are going to have a seat.
posted by The Whelk at 10:51 AM on July 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't know, in a country where it feels like all spaces accessible to the public will soon be surveilled 24/7, dissent is steadily being criminalized while ever more reactionary police forces can get away with doing anything they want to you, and all your electronic metadata is available to an alphabet soup of security-state bureaucracies, it seems oddly overtone deaf to criticize houses which feature undedicated spaces where people might get together and talk with a reasonable expectation of privacy, and which the State must nominally have a court-approved warrant to enter without permission.
posted by jamjam at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Alas, my folding chairs died various crashing unexpected deaths over the years, but I'll probably get another set one day.

My family has an apparent tradition (grandma had them before mom) of using folding chairs similar to these since at least the 60s. They are legit real chairs when in use, and would not fall into a pile of toothpicks from 6ft up a wall.
posted by rhizome at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2018


omg, yes, we also have a set of four Stakmores and they're our utility players for setting up big, floating buffet dinners. When I lived in a 500 sq ft. 1 bedroom, I relied on a lot of folding chairs, stools, and tables to convert my kitchen, living room, and back porch into dining or lounging areas, and even now living in a place that's three times that size. I still kept a lot of that folding furniture for when it's more than just the two of us hanging out here.
posted by bl1nk at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


chairs that fucking stack

Yes, this ^. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by arcticseal at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have my eye on these L'eau chairs, probably the side chairs in the clear and the chairs for the head and foot in blue or orange (depending on the colors of the room). They stack BEAUTIFULLY, they wipe clean, and they look cool, what more could you ask for from a dining chair? (Well, a more reasonable price, but they go on sale for 40% off fairly frequently.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


i am sorry but i am not going to purchase a mcmansion in order to fight The Man, this is ridiculous
posted by poffin boffin at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


Never had the desire for a formal anywhere to entertain anyone. Other people suck and I'd rather have a place that's small enough that I only have to plug the vacuum in once to clean it.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:02 PM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


There’s a ton of room between 1000 sqft per occupant and 175-250sqft per occupant. To present it as either/or and get mad that people want you to live an uncomfortable cramped lifestyle is operating in bad faith.

No, it’s operating in ignorance; I didn’t know the average house size. Anyway, I’m not arguing for bigger and bigger houses. I was mostly commenting on the weird feeling of seeing people complain about a kind of housing you’d never heard of, and implying that it’s preferable to live in a smaller space like the one you want to get out of. People say you can host 20 people in a 700 sq ft apartment just fine, nobody needs that much space, wanting more is aspirational, etc. In a conversation like this, it sometimes seems like people are happy to hear from those who love their small spaces and can make them work, and will discount the viewpoints of people who are unhappy in such a space (because they must be aspiring to a certain status, or because they’re American, or just greedy, or whatever).

I may be projecting a lot and drawing false conclusions, but this is what it looks like from my perspective. I don’t blame you for assuming bad faith on my part, but maybe I’m just coming from a different place here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:41 PM on July 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


In short, done right, high ceilings are awesome

I have an apartment in a giant house built in 1908 which is on the National Register of Historical Places. My whole apartment has 12-foot ceilings. The living room has oak box beams and oak paneling 8 feet up the walls. I just measured - it's 12' x 20'. My fireplace mantel is also oak and decorative. I have sconces for days.

Two walls of my kitchen are floor-to-ceiling oak cabinets that are glass-fronted except for the top couple feet which are comprised of little cupboards that I've never tried to reach and everything below counter height which is nothing but a plethora of drawers. My plates are in drawers, my bowls are in drawers, my appliances are in drawers and I have so many junk drawers that at least two of them just have paperclips in them.

I don't have any official "entertainment" place or anything formal and I only own two chairs. I love throwing the kind of parties where people hang out in the kitchen or the living room and talk. Also, my house has a giant front porch with chairs and tables and grills which is perfect for warm nights.

I've never lived anywhere that's anything like this place and I'm loving how it's so easy to entertain in any room and/or the porch.

The division is between people who want to have formal dinners in the dining room and those who want to have casual parties all over the house.
posted by bendy at 7:01 PM on July 21, 2018


"No, it’s operating in ignorance; I didn’t know the average house size. Anyway, I’m not arguing for bigger and bigger houses."

The other thing that tends to happen, partly due to zoning codes, is that you end up with housing at the far ends of the spectrum but not a lot in the middle. Where I live now, which is a "family suburb," has brand-new 3400-square-foot monstrosities (I am not paying to clean that OR heat that) or 900-square-foot post-war bungalows (what I'm in), and neither are appropriate for most families. 900 square feet is great for a couple starting out or with a baby or two, but it's oppressively small for a family of five. But 3400 square feet is flatly ridiculous. And there's really nothing in between. And that's pretty typical -- you'll have whole neighborhoods of 500-square-foot condos, or 4,000-square-foot houses, or 1800-square-foot bungalows, and nothing else, so you fit that mold forever or you don't buy. And of course my bachelor brother lives in town and he basically wants a 500-foot one-man apartment near the train station so he can be near his nieces and nephews but not have to have a WHOLE HOUSE in the family suburb.

On top of that, the American emphasis on homeownership and on local school districts tends to lock you into a home and a district, so a lot of young couples who intend to have children later on buy a huge house before they have any, because once you OWN a house, moving is a pain in the ass (and a financially-losing proposition). A lot of people buy the maximum amount of house they might EVER need, and spend years heating and cleaning and maintaining a house twice as big as they need, because later on they'll have three teenagers and need the space, and ain't nobody wants to move.

I lived in truly teeny apartments (under 200 feet at some points!), and then a small house that fit a pair of toddlers but was being rapidly outgrown, and now in a much smaller house that clearly doesn't fit my children, and I'm ready for the next 10 years or so to live in the biggest house I'll ever need, but after 10 years my kids will start leaving for college and I'll be ready to move back down to something cheaper to heat and easier to clean and maintain. But that's not a system or a set of life changes that American housing accommodates, especially if you want to stay in the same school system to avoid uprooting the kids.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:36 PM on July 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


This entire issue is why I want more communal multi famous housing as described by a local housing professional in Seattle. I want to have a smallish apartment for day to day living but have a nice big dining room or kitchen or other shared space which we’d only want occasionally. Right now we have a ~1000 sq ft old house with no dining room so we just have a big table in the kitchen (actually the largest room) and it works well enough for up to 6-8. When we’ve had more folks over (rare) a bunch end up in the living room.
posted by R343L at 12:04 AM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Never had the desire for a formal anywhere to entertain anyone. Other people suck and I'd rather have a place that's small enough that I only have to plug the vacuum in once to clean it.

Almost hurt my finger favoriting this. Literally the first thing that comes into my mind when someone tells me about their Huge New House is "and how much time does it take to clean it?". I guess if you have children you can offload some of the chores on them, but still, SOMEONE has to drag around that vacuum cleaner. And clean those amazing huge windows. And shovel the lovely sparkling snow. And mow the beautiful grass. And do whatever one does to the gutters. I know a person who lives in an ex-church, which is huge and amazing and has all the ceiling height imaginable AND THEN SOME, but I was there to help with the just-moved-in cleaning and afterwards I just noped out of it with industrial strength.
posted by Vesihiisi at 1:50 AM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


But that's not a system or a set of life changes that American housing accommodates,

Is this a problem with American housing or a problem with how Americans generally live in housing? Like, the way I think of it, you get a large house that’s enough room for the teenagers, and then they move out for college and their twenties, meanwhile you move your elderly parents in as they get older and can’t maintain a whole place themselves, and then when they pass it’s right around the time at least one of your kids is starting a family so you move to one of the smaller rooms and the kid moves in with their family, and the cycle of life continues.
posted by corb at 2:05 AM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


No, it’s operating in ignorance; I didn’t know the average house size.

I think you're also running into a thing where people aren't really bothering to mention square footage unless they are being a little hyperbolic to make a point, like "you can entertain in this really super small space so why in the everloving fuck are there so many enormous places?" Like, I live in 1200 sqft and it's honestly perfect; it'd be great with one or two kids but in the meantime it's also great with a couple of roomies, a++ would stay here forever if I wasn't planning to change cities a bunch. I've lived in 500-900 sqft as a single person and the 900 sqft place with a spouse, and those were fine and all but more people (including kids) would have made them very cramped, and the smaller end of that spectrum was about impossible to have more than ten or so people over in. Meanwhile, the enormous ridiculous place my parents live in that I was snarking about turns out to (from a casual Zillow glance) to be 6300 sqft--no wonder it feels completely out to lunch to me!

The downside of communal housing and situations like mine with my roommates is of course finding people you like. Like, I love the notion of more communal spaces, but I also know that I was lucky in that I had one friend who needed a new place to live right when I was moving into the place I live in now, and it took us something like a year to find someone to move in that fit our household well after that. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world--my roommates are fucking awesome, worth waiting for for sure--but it can be trickier to merge households than I think a lot of us optimistically envision when we're dreaming over more shared use of space. And the tendency of Americans to move every few years really exacerbates that in a deeply frustrating way.
posted by sciatrix at 11:40 AM on July 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Umm excuse you I absolutely use my dining room. It has a big dining table in it. I use that dining table, and the chairs arrayed around it, for storing all sorts of things. Also the cats like to get up on it to look out the window. So, like, if you're trying to tell me that I don't need a Elevated Surfaces So The Cats Can Look Out The Window And Also This Is Where I'm Going To Put This Thing Until I Find A Proper Home For It Or Just Throw It Away Room, well, I'm sorry, but I'm just not listening.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


The house I grew up in had a rarely-used dining room and an almost-never-used formal living room, with, of course, pale carpet and white couches. We also had a finished basement, with a giant playroom for my two younger sisters and me, a guest room, and the room where we kept the treadmill no one ever used. It was, at least, not as bad as some of the McMansions in our neighborhood: an oversized colonial with an attached garage on one side. Still, sometimes when I read McMansion Hell things are way too familiar.

When I was in college, my grandfather died, my grandmother moved to a condo, and my parents bought their house. It's a 4000 square foot ranch house-- no, seriously-- and my parents ended up finishing half the basement, too, so my dad could have a music room, my mom could have a sewing room, and my grandpa's pool table could sit somewhere nicer looking I guess. If all the rooms weren't 30% bigger than they need to be the upstairs would be a semi-reasonable house: dining room, den, kitchen, sunroom, family room that they actually use (same white couches, but my mom puts a towel down so the dog can sit with them) and three bedrooms. They do use the dining room, because my mom took over for my grandmother as family hostess -- they've had 30-plus people for Rosh Hashanah, some years, with overflow tables in the den and the foyer.

I live in a 1700 square foor bungalow with two housemates, and it'll be the perfect amount of space as soon as I clear out all the vintage shop stock. we got the keys for the new storefront on Friday so I feel pretty good about it!

The only thing about my parents' house I envy is their kitchen. When my grandparents built the house, they wanted a kitchen where they could both cook at the same time without getting in each others' way. It is, no exaggeration, the largest kitchen I've ever seen in a residential home. Two sinks, two ranges, three ovens, massive island in the middle -- you could sit three people at the short end without bumping elbows. Cabinets for days. I have a narrow little galley kitchen and have to do the 'scuse-me dance if I want somethng from the fridge while someone else is cooking. But that kitchen is bigger than any two rooms of my house put together.
posted by nonasuch at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think part of my problem is that I honestly have no idea how to visualize square footage. Like, how do I translate that number into a sense of scale? I only know my apartment’s area because I measured it once. You’d think I could just use my apartment as a basic unit, and imagine everything as multiples of that, but it’s never so simple. What does 3x my apartment actually look like? A regular house? A bungalow?

Honest question: how do you learn how to visualize square footage?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


The way I do it is I take my foot, and put the heel of my other foot at a right angle to it, with the heel touching the toes of my first foot. Then I follow this method with my other two feet until I have created a square, and then I just hop about the space, counting out loud, until I have covered the area. One important thing to remember, with your four legs pistoning at once, you do run the risk of accidentally hopping too high, and putting your head through the ceiling, into where they keep the asbestos.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:51 PM on July 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I love that, but let's be real: I visualize square footage by googling places I've been in (leasing sites for apartments; Zillow for houses, which will show even houses that aren't for sale) and checking square footage listed there.
posted by sciatrix at 4:32 AM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just went to an apartment-warming that was mostly held in the "party room" of the nice new apartment building in question. There's also an extra ?apartment? kitchenless apartment? somewhere in the building for hosting guests. (The new tenants didn't know the details either.)

The 1920s apartment buildings often had the same thing -- there was one near the university that had a small but perfectly formed ballroom, now alas gone -- as do a few of the single-tower retirement communities. No-one could afford it during the war, and no-one bothered during the depopulated decades. But it did remind me what the previous solution to wanting to formally entertain, but not doing so so constantly that building it into your house makes sense: belonging to the country club. Which seems like a perfect fit for all-cul-de-sac executive McMansions. Are country clubs coming back?
posted by clew at 12:54 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


My inlaws live in a condo building that has a guest apartment (a hotel room, basically), and also has a rooftop deck with a grill that you can sign up in advance and use.

I do believe, however, that country clubs are another one of those things that snake people are killing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Here, the local school has a very nice party room that one can borrow for events. I haven't checked if you have to still have a kid at school.
And some time ago, I was at a funeral in a housing collective, where it had become tradition to combine the funeral and wake in the common building. Often I feel those common spaces can be a bit cold and uninviting, but there it was really great, a clear expression of the people who live there.
posted by mumimor at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ha, good find. Two odd things, though; first, surely golf clubs and country clubs aren't the same thing (maybe they are in huge regions of the country? Or have been for forty years? I think of them as tennis with charming tennis pros for the adults, monitored swimming for the kids. Other sports as appropriate to the region. ) Second that they should need to appeal to egalitarian, impoverished snake people to survive -- McMansion developments aren't egalitarian and whoever's in them isn't impoverished.
posted by clew at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2018


Note that square footage in real estate terms includes the walls, so your actual room space will be probably 10 percent or so less.
posted by tavella at 8:28 PM on July 23, 2018


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