Single Level Living
…eliminating the ups and downs of everyday life, Why Single Level Living is coming back….
Single Level Living, for example the 50’s style Ranch homes that many of us grew up in seems to be making a comeback. This is happening for several reasons, but not without some pushback. Over the last few decades we have grown to love our McMansions with 2, 3 or even 4 stories of dedicated spaces to accommodate exercise, music, media, man caves, fem lounges, arena kitchens, home offices, butler’s pantries, in-law suites, pet rooms, and storage. Not just closets, but specialty storage for seasonal decorations, dish and small appliance pantries, separate food pantries, wine rooms, trophy rooms and safe rooms. All of which takes up space, all of which has been accommodated on a smaller footprint when you stacked the house with multiple stories. With single level living land planners and developers have realized is that you can build allot more house (i.e. square footage) on a smaller piece of property, increasing density, and reducing raw land and infrastructure costs in the process. The McMansion was created, and we Americans have resisted giving it up
Why Single Level Living Makes Sense
All of this makes since initially…but the reality of aging can make multi-level living difficult or impossible. Now consider the energy it takes to heat and cool multiple stories and large square footage. At some point it becomes inefficient or unsustainable. What this means varies as we look for solutions to support our lifestyles and navigate through our homes. Numerous trends have evolved as a result.
- Footprints for ranch style houses have grown from the 1200 to 1800 square feet we had 40 and 50 years ago, to 2500 to 3500 or more today.
- Separate rooms for the kitchen, dining and living rooms are now “open concept” plans.
- By removing walls, we now rely on the ceilings to define the space. This has created the trend for higher ceilings and vaulted spaces. Homes today have ceilings that are 9, 10, 11, or 12 feet high. It is rare that I don’t design a home with 10-foot ceilings. The kitchen may have a flat ceiling and is adjacent to the great room with vaulted ceilings and heavy timber rafters and beams. In general, more attention is being paid to making the ceilings more interesting.
- Single level living also means that some spaces need to be flexible. The home office can morph into a guest bedroom when needed. This is true for the hobby/craft room as well. Laundry rooms also have become the family pet room. We often build in pet grooming facilities in the laundry/mud room.
- Natural light is now more important (remember as we age we need more light), which demands larger windows and doors.
- Large doors, even huge multi panel doors are in demand as we integrate the interior space with the exterior space to expand the living area. This blending of indoor/outdoor space is more popular than ever. I routinely install 16’ to 20’ wide folding/pocketing/sliding doors for this purpose.
- Single level living doesn’t necessarily mean a one-story house. It really means you have the ability to live on one level. The master bedroom and all of the required living and utility spaces are on that level. You can very well have a Terrace Level (basement) or second floor, but these spaces are secondary and intended for family and friends to use.
- Another trend that has emerged is home elevators. These have actually become quite popular and are much more affordable today than they were 10 years ago. Almost all of the multi-story homes I design today have an elevator shaft designed into the space, so it can be retrofitted for an elevator when that is a necessity.
- Along with a master bedroom on a single level, we are seeing what I call the junior master also. Many of us have had to provide care for an elderly family member in which they needed single level living also. This is a little different from the extra bedrooms and bathrooms typical to single level plans. The junior master needs to function as a suite, with a sitting area, larger closets, and an ADA compliant bathroom.
- “Right sizing” the house means we design a home that in neither to big or to small. It is the right size. This requires that we be very realistic about how we live in our home, what possessions we keep and what we are willing to maintain throughout our time in the house. This requires that we be very honest with ourselves as to what is important in our lives.
So the ranch plan is being re-invented to allow for the convenience and accessibility of single level living. With more efficient ways of insulating our homes, with open concept plans, well designed floor plans, the ranch is a better solution. The ups and downs go away.
Michael Grant, Owner/Designer, Modern Rustic Homes, Ellijay, GA.