Some time ago a Realtor suggested to me that the formula for calculating the cost of building a home should be a large multiple of the cost of the lot. At the time it struck me as a bit odd. The more I have considered it, the more out of step that thinking seems. It reminded me of advice I received as a young man. I was contemplating marriage and buying an engagement ring. The jeweler informed me that I should budget a certain percent of my annual salary for that ring. There was no consideration for any of my personal values, economic circumstances, nor of my future bride, only custom and fashion. A thinking person holds neither fashion nor custom in very high regard. It seemed that someone concocted these formulas more for the benefit of the salesman than for the happiness and well-being of the buyer.
For a person who values nature, if there is to be such a formula, shouldn’t the numerator and denominator be flipped? Shouldn’t the land value be a multiple of the house? Which is the more durable, the more valuable over time? What does REAL in Real Estate refer to? Great architects will invariably assert that good architecture is molded to the character of the land, not the other way round. The most famous example of the principle is “Falling Water” designed by our most lauded architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. But I hold that the true spirit of the principle was best illustrated by my favorite philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. He found his greatest joy living in about a 150 square foot house of his own construction beside a lovely pond in the woods.
Today, it has become quite fashionable to downsize to small, even tiny houses. How good it would be if behavior were driven by wisdom not fashion, but what a happy coincidence we find ourselves in! The unforeseen benefits of a small home are substantial. When the land one lives on is of greater value than the house, the true proportional value emerges between things made by man and those made by God.
This conflict of interest has reached absurd proportions as American suburbs filled with McMansions that people can neither afford nor use. Huge spaces that only require the owner to fill them with furniture that they can also not afford. Possessions own us. Thankfully, current economic hardships have brought a degree of common sense back to at least some.
In the Village, it’s really ok to own a small house rather than be owned by a huge, wasteful one. There is no minimum house size here. We are blessed with a mild climate and stunningly beautiful land filled with plants and animals in their natural state. A small home invites one to be outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer. The Village lifestyle is the antidote for the cocooning generation, holed up with TV’s, video games in cavernous mansions, full of things and yet empty of life.
How full one’s life becomes when the great out-of-doors becomes the boundaries of our habitation, not the walls of our house.
For some ideas on living small, check this out: http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/