How big does a house for one person, or two, need to be?

The thread Individualist trends and fads: kids just phoning it in these days? sprouted a tangential conversation based on monstro’s interest in building a very small house for herself. To avert full-blown hijack there, and to bring the topic to readers who may not have been in that thread, I’m starting this dedicated one.

I’ll recap, with a little editing for concision, all the relevant posts to date.

Not necessarily on purpose, but developers and real estate agents have effectively distorted the housing market to serve the profitability of their fields. America is undersupplied with very small, well-designed, well-built houses. I’m sure that monstro’s house and others like it will someday delight buyers.

A shameful number of large houses are already standing unsold, vacant and falling into disrepair, in some parts of the country. Recall that the housing-market crash and the associated recession were partially caused by people who were encouraged and enabled to buy too much house.

Unabomber shacks? Please, it’s all about the design. Here is a ~600 s.f. house. Here is another. This is the inside of a third.

My feeling is basically that lots of people have (and are paying for) more space than they’re really using, either because the market has not supplied them with other options, or because poor designs have misled them into thinking that they need more space than they really do.

My SO and I live in an 800 sq.ft. house. It was built in 1943 and as I understand it, building materials were scarce so they built a small house. It’s a lovely home, window frames/floors all original wood. It has two smaller bedrooms, one bathroom, a cozy living room, a galley kitchen, and an unfinished basement. We adore it, it’s warm and inviting and perfect for us.

My best friend from high school and her partner live in a 610 sq.ft. house, they sometimes wish it was a tiny bit bigger since they have two huskies, but all in all love their little home.

Our house is about 2000 sq. ft. (finished basement w/MIL apartment) but we could live in half the space, easily. It has energy-efficient features so we don’t feel too guilty.

I suspect a lot of people buy a bigger (or smaller) house than they want for the same reason we did – location. A smaller house on the same lot would have been fine with us.

Our place is a refurbished 1904 Craftsman, with about 1300 sf of usable space. Since the basement is used for storage at the moment, we’re living comfortably in about 700-800 s.f. Since we had the small deck built on off the kitchen, it’s plenty of room. Our last place was a 2100 sf condo and it was more house than we could easily take care of when we were both working.

Or because they had families who moved out?

My house is also 2000 sq. ft., and I intentionally bought what I considered to be a “small house.” Of course, there’s 5 of us living here. In 20 years it’ll seem huge I’m sure. Then it’s off to a condo to die.

The postwar neighborhood where my wife bought her first house had 2-bedroom, single-family detached units as small as 850 square feet.

It’s a perfectly usable size (after we married, I moved in and we had our first child while still living there.) It requires some compromises, for example, you have to be careful when choosing furniture, and the closet space is way too small by today’s standards.

The real problem I see is that those kind of houses are best suited for singles or childless couples who want everything that comes with home ownership – including maintenance and yard work, as well a mortgage. That’s a small slice of the market, and those people often choose condos (no maintenace) or rental properties (no long-term mortgage.)

Hubby and I live in a 900 Sq Ft condo (so no basement) with 2 bedrooms.

It was TONS of space when I was single - I would actually sleep in the spare bedroom sometimes just so it wouldn’t seem like the space was wasted. It was quite good for the two of us.

Now that we have Junior its a bit cramped just because he has so much STUFF! It’s just a living room/dining room - there’s obviously no play room for him and he has his swing, and Jolly Jumper and bouncer, etc. out there which is too much.

However, 600 Sq Ft for a single person seems totally reasonable - particularly if there is a garage and basement to store extra stuff - we have neither and we do have some stuff stashed at my in-laws house (extra art, mostly).

When it’s time for baby #2 we will be moving into a house right away. I expect around 1500 Sq Ft will do us nicely - a bit smaller would be fine too.

We have 2200 square feet, which we got since our two kids were still at home and my wife works at home. Now the kids are gone, their rooms are mostly unused (except by the dog) and we have a living room we seldom use. In California you don’t move unless you absolutely have to, since our taxes would go way up even if we got a smaller house in the neighborhood. We’re clearly going to get a much smaller house when I retire and we get out of here.

Our first house, for just the two of us, was probably 1100 sq ft or so, one big bedroom, two tiny ones, and a small kitchen and living room. Plenty of space.

I’m currently living in a 1400 sqft town home of which I’m activly using 1000-1100 sqft. The extra room is great when I have guests. I just put an offer in on a 970 sqft loft over a 500 sqft garage. I think it’ll be a nice space for me as long as I don’t have any guests and all of my parties are outside.

I can’t imagine living in less space then that as a single guy with a dog and I’m worried if I ever ask my girlfriend to move in with me how bad it’s going to be.

I’m planning on building my dream home on the property and when running my initial numbers I think it’s going to be some where in the 5000 sqft range at 4bd/4bth and I’ll have the loft as guest quarters.

Four of us (me, hubby and two kids) live in a 1300 square foot home with a 200 sqaure foot basement. My husband and I could fairly easily live without the two extra bedrooms and half of the basement and with a smaller living area so I would say about 1000 square feet total. Anything less than that would be pretty cramped.

We moved here from a 800 square foot 1-br apartment. Going back to that even with just the two of us would be unpleasant.

Well, hubby and I currently live in an 800 sf house, the bedrooms are microscopic and we are currently planning on bashing out the wall between the 2 bedrooms to make a single normal sized one. There is currently no closet, so it will also be getting closet space put in.

We figure this plus the kitchen renovation is what will be required to actually sell the fucking place. We have loved living here, but we need something more gimp friendly and I want to build custom for my accommodations. The jackass who took a cramped 20x20 cinder block tenant farmers shack and doubled the size had no clue about how to efficiently arrange the inside of the house so it is almost unlivable as it is now. On the plus side, it has a 1800 sq foot barn with a full bathroom and nice skylighted workspace on the top floor.

I think trying to squeeze a second bedroom into anything under 1200 sq feet is absurd.

My GF and I currently live in a 600 sq ft 1BR 1BA we own in Hoboken, NJ, which for all intents and purposes is a 6th borough of NYC. That is to say it’s all multi-unit appartment buildings and you don’t need a car to live there.

It is just big enough. We tolerate it because it is in a trendy urban area with easy access to Manhattan.

If I were to start adding sq ft-age, I think I would want to create a larger kitchen / dining room.

This weekend, I had visitors; a guy who used to live in my current home when he was a kid. His family at the time were poor first generation immigrants. So this house, 1350 square feet, (3 bedroom, 1 bathroom) where today I live with my husband and toddler? Just thirty years ago, the same house had twelve people living in it. The floors were separated. Our upper floor had a separate entrance and housed one family with four sons. The bottom floor housed another family with four kids.

Puts my own whining about too little space in perpective, doesn’t it?

I’m currently in an 800 sq ft 2 bdr/1 bath apartment with my husband, 2 cats and a tiny dog. It is perfectly big for our needs, but that is generally because that second room is for storage and is the “animal room” where the food bowls, litter boxes, etc. go. If we had a child the space would be too small and we would need to get at least another 100 sq ft of space and we would have to get rid of a ton of stuff. For a single person or a married couple I think 650-850 sq ft is a perfectly acceptable size.

I live in a house that is “technically” 1040 sq. ft. but I have a full unfinished basement which does not count in the square footage. Neither does the garage I don’t think. So really I have more like 1600-1800 sqft.

I let my friend live in the basement for free, and he takes up more than half of it. I let him do it because it’s temporary and it’s space I really really am not using.

Anyway…600 sq. ft. for one person? Totally. I rarely use my living room or dining room. My guest room stays closed all the time. If I didn’t work from home I wouldn’t need a 9x9 office. My bathroom is HUGE compared to the 1.5 baths at my parents’ house. I have a full accessible attic that I’ve never been in.

If I lost 2 bedrooms (about 200 sq. ft) and my dining room (about 80 sq. ft.) I’d be rockin’ 760 sq. ft. If I shaved a little bit off my bedroom and my living room (which has more couch than I need) I’d be down to 600 sq. ft. and would not feel cramped at all. Even with my 90# dog. I would just need a space for my laundry up in the kitchen or something.

I don’t mind the size of my house tho, because I’m learning to love entertaining. Even so, I either need a big backyard (got it) or a nice basement (can’t afford it yet) to do all that. If I didn’t want to entertain - like I know Miss monstro doesn’t - then I could do it all in 600 sq. ft. no problem!

Based on earlier accomodations, I’d say the average person probably needs 750 to 1000, but need and want can be two separate things entirely. We’re well over 5K and while I probably wouldn’t have built that size, it was perfect for us in numerous other ways and frankly is really nice to have. A fair bit is for guest use, although we often find ourselves using it for other things as well. Of course this is more than the 3 of us actually need, although we were pushing the limit in a place half that size. But it’s overbuilt with energy conserving features and beyond the initial cost it’s not been an inconvenience to maintain.

I’m looking around my office which I share with five dudes, it’s about 15’ x 35’ which means it’s only 75sqft smaller than the house monstro wants to build, it seems a bit cramped for living, even with the vaulted ceiling.

I grew up in a single wide trailer, family of three and we were crammed in there tighter than sardines. The average single wide in these parts ranges from 13’ - 15’ wide on the outside and is 60’ long. So at the most, 900sqft, half again as much as monstro is considering.

I find I don’t need much space for living but I tend to accumulate STUFF. Not junk either, lots of equipment for various hobbies and cooking gadgetry, it all adds up space-wise.

The aforementioned makes me think you ought to expand at least a little monstro. OTOH, when we were lucky enough to move out of the trailer we built our own house. There were many fights with the contractor, every issue we caved on we are sorry about to this day. You know what you want and you’re paying, I say do what you like and to hell with the lot of 'em.

Congratulations on your house!

There was a segment I believe on CBS Sunday Morning that showed some really small homes one builder was making, something on the order of 100 sq feet or so and not only were they efficient and stylish but also apparently in great demand. A hell of a lot less to worry about so if uncomplicating things works for some then go for it.


Jim and I (and two cats) live in a 1020 sq. ft. bungalow with a full basement and two car garage - I can easily see two kids being able to fit into this house. For two of us, we have more room than we need (especially with the full basement and big garage) - we each have our own rooms/offices, there’s a spare guest bedroom that one of the cats sleeps in, and we’re planning a large spa room and media room for the basement. For right now, I think we’re in exactly the right size house for us; when we get older and don’t want to garden and look after a house and yard any longer, I can see us downsizing.

I think monstro’s real estate agent is right on one count, that a 600 sq. ft. house will be harder to sell, but that’s not always the biggest concern. If she builds it so she can live in the rest of her life and then does, who cares if it’s hard to sell?

I also agree that us North Americans have wildly inflated ideas about how much space people need to live in. My city is terrible for that - everyone wants their own detached house and yard, and they want BIG houses, for just a few people and all their stuff. When we sold our house and moved two years ago, everyone asked us if we were moving to a bigger place. Our answer was always a bemused, “No, we don’t need anything larger” (we traded almost straight across, and only moved because we couldn’t put a garage on the other lot). I also think that if you live in a house that becomes too small for all your stuff, you need to look at downsizing your stuff, not upsizing your house.

My wife, son and I live in a 1500 sq ft 3 bedroom row house. Some of the layout is a bit weird, so I think if it were on one level and properly designed, 1500 could be quite spacious. If we had a garage or a basement for storage it would be perfect. As it is now it works out but only if we make sure not to accumulate clutter, which is tricky when you have a toddler. When it was my wife and I bought it several years ago, it felt spacious especially compared to the 550 sq ft 1 bedroom we moved from. That place felt kind of small for us, but we had moved from a larger place, and knew it was going to be temporary, so we didn’t go as good a job of downsizing as we should have.

I think that 800 square feet is a good size apartment for a couple. The apartment we lived in that was that size felt large and uncluttered since it had three very large closets and a small linen closet to boot.

For a house with an outdoor space, you will want something with a shed for all of the outdoor stuff that you will require to maintain it.

Getting back to the OP, I would probably want more square footage if I am building. For me it isn’t the square footage that makes a place difficult to clean, it is the amount of clutter that you fill it with, and how well the space is designed. If the place doesn’t have enough storage, it will feel crowded.