Bigger is better, part 2

When I grew up we had a 3-bedroom apartment for our family of four plus a cellar and a bit of an attic.  The apartment was about 1,000 square foot – it was huge!  Much larger than that of most of my friends – we were very lucky.

A typical house in California, pic: © Paul Moore | Dreamstime.com

Now I live in a place were families of four move from 2,700 square-foot “starter homes” to 3,500 square foot places with a triple garage because, really, how could one possible make due with just 2,700 square foot and a double garage (admittedly, no cellar, we don’t do cellars here in earthquake riddled California).

I wondered for a long time what people do with all that space until I had seen enough of these houses to understand: they don’t do anything useful with it.  The new houses all have the same basic lay-out: you enter into a “Great room” which is two stories high and often three steps above the rest of the ground floor.  In many cases these rooms are empty for one to two years after people move in because they simply haven’t figured out what to do with them.  Their height makes them uncomfy, and their designation as Great Rooms makes people feel like they should do something special with them, like that “formal dinning room” they dreamed about after reading too many interior design magazines.

But this is California and I can’t remember the last time anybody I know had a “formal dinner” or a “formal anything”.  We live in the State of shorts and t-shirts at work, the State where jeans plus pumps are considered  “evening wear”.  People don’t do formal dinning here.

So generally the Great Room is the Great Empty Room or the Great Empty Room with the piano/karaoke machine/drum set in it.

Everybody hangs in the kitchen, often a eat-in one, big enough to dance the polka in.  There seems to be an direct relationship between the increase in convenience food bought (as measured in hours of microwave usage) and kitchen size.  One should think otherwise but apparently frozen pizzas are best microwaved in kitchens equipped with professional cooking ranges and two sinks.

Next to the kitchen is the “family room” whoever isn’t in the kitchen is in the family room because that’s were the toys and the TV are and the older couches that one can crumble cookies on without anybody going into cardiac arrest.  The rest of the first floor is taken up by a laundry room, a guest bathroom and a large stair well to the second floor. There you will find surprisingly small bedrooms because the Great Room below takes up half the space and a couple more bathrooms.

Here you have it, the typical Californian house – bigger, but not better.

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