Did you miss the beginning? Start here:
- Big family in a small house, part 1: Bedrooms
- Big family in a small house, part 2: Storage
- Big family in a small house, part 3: the floor plan
Although we have chosen to live in a small house for a time, we do want to be able to entertain guests – lots of them! As a child, my family was very large and we very rarely received invitations to the homes of others. I have to assume that most were uncomfortable with the prospect of 10 or more guests at one time.
We did not want that to be the case for our house. We decided to skimp on the bedrooms to maximize floor space in the living areas. We also chose a very open layout, with the living room, dining room and kitchen all in one long open area. We think the oblong layout lets our guests spread out while maintaining visual contact, so that people don’t feel either crowded or isolated.
The 2 sofas in our modest living room are against the walls. It’s not the most stylish placement, but it does keep the walkways very open and the seating accessible. It also allows us to set up another table at the end of our 8.5′ long dining table if we choose.
Even the island in the kitchen and the placement of the huge dining room table were planned to ease the flow of traffic: both are centered in their respective areas, to allow for traffic on both sides. The kitchen island is ideal for serving a crowd buffet style: traffic flows in one side of the kitchen and out the other, leaving room at the table for plenty of people, plates, cups, etc. I try to ignore the fact that the traffic goes in an incorrect counter-clockwise direction. It makes my eye twitch but I try not to let the world know.
We also were blessed to be able to build a rather large deck on the front of the house. This greatly extends our available space for most of the year. When we have 15-20 guests in addition to our own 11 – which usually happens several times/month – many of us often eat outside.
There are certain disadvantages to our layout:
- Because the bedrooms are small and crowded at the expense of the living areas, they’re very difficult to keep neat. This is an ongoing battle, and often a losing one. I might mention something about this when January 1 rolls around.
- We dispensed with hallways to save space, but this means that our bedroom doors are right off of the dining room/living room. We usually keep the doors closed when we have company.
- The lack of a hallway also means that the bathroom door is right off of the main living area. Not ideal, but we think it was the best choice.
- The noise and mess of the kitchen cannot be hidden.
All of these situations are less than ideal, but we think they are worthwhile sacrifices to make entertaining larger groups more practical. Some of these represent decisions that were made when we built the house; you might not find them useful unless you are moving to a new home soon. Other decisions involve arranging furniture in ways that might look less like the inside of a home magazine but work better for entertaining sizeable crowds in a small area.
Take a look at your house; how can you rearrange what you already have to improve the usability of your space? When it comes to entertaining company, this doesn’t always mean finding more storage space. Sometimes it means keeping less stuff to make more room for people. Though we certainly don’t do it perfectly, this is yet another way that we have found to be content in our smaller-than-average home with a larger-than-average family.