The Problem with Houses that are Needlessly Large

By H Jerome McInnish LLC Architect

When I’m moving about the city of Huntsville – particularly the suburbs – I’m struck by the houses that are obviously oversized. This redundancy in size and function implies practical and aesthetic liability.

Practically, the first problem that is associated with these kinds of houses is the purchasing cost. The cost of the house is directly related to the floor area. The more floor area the house includes, the greater is the cost of the house. And if the floor area is not used, the owner is paying for something – both in the form of mortgage payments and taxes – that is not used. Other practical drawbacks from houses that are too big would include the cost – in time and money – of physically maintaining the property: periodic painting, re-shingling large roof area, repair of wood trim, etc. And finally, one should not discount the cost of heating and cooling the excessively large interior air volume.

Aside from the practical problems that come with houses that are needlessly large, there are the aesthetic concerns. Inefficiency and redundancy are aesthetically unattractive. And when a house contains rooms and floor area that are not used and excessively large, the house gets perceived as being inefficient. And when the proverbial “Bonus Room” or the “Formal Living Room” are poorly designed and ill-conceived, and when they inauspiciously get converted to de-facto storage rooms, this leads to the degradation to the overall aesthetics of the house.

One could draw a comparison between the art of writing and architecture. One prominent advocate of efficiency in writing is the author E. B. White:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Efficiency and brevity lead to beauty both in the art of writing, the visual arts and architecture. And certainly houses that embrace this concept benefit from enhanced aesthetic and architectural value as well.

–The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr., edited by E. B. White

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