Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 6:18 am | Fair 64º


Garcia Architects: The ‘McModest’ House Replaces the ‘McMansion’

With more people choosing to downsize, there are ways to maximize the use of space

Before the recession, bigger was better, and extravagance was the goal. Now, smaller is smarter, and simple is sublime.

Many people have reassessed their values since money — once their “BFF” — turned its back on them. Those who made a lot of it during the boom times spent as much as they made, and now have nothing to show for it. Lesson learned.

Going forward, many people have embraced the concept of living modestly, making less money at a job that hopefully offers a sense of purpose while allowing more free time to spend with family and friends. Consequently, the small-house movement is gaining some stride, as evidenced by the tiny prefab WeeHouse, the i-House, the CargoSpace Living container homes, and other similar small house designs.

After all, many things — from televisions to music players — now take up less space, not to mention those old record collections that have gone by the wayside.

People are jumping on the bandwagon to consume less, reduce their carbon footprint and get back to the important things in life. Occupying less physical space is one crucial way to accomplish these goals. Buildings are responsible for much of our environmental woes. Constructing smaller, energy-efficient buildings not only saves us money, it saves our planet.

An even better option than new buildings is to upgrade existing ones. As needs change, it may be assumed that more space is needed. But an expansion may not be the only answer.

I have always been a very pragmatic designer, aiming to get the biggest bang for the buck for my clients. Avoiding the permit process is a huge money-saver. There are many space-saving techniques that do not require a building permit. However, if a permit is necessary in order to relocate walls, renovating within the existing building footprint and avoiding exterior changes will keep costs down. In Santa Barbara especially, steering clear of the city’s design review process for changes to a building’s exterior will save a lot in both design and construction costs.

A good designer can make the most of a small footprint. Storage is key. Built-in shelving, cabinets and work surfaces are an efficient way to store things, display décor and work effectively. Specifically, shelving high up near the ceiling and underneath stairs takes advantage of typically wasted space. Platform beds with storage underneath and good closet organization reduce the need for bulky dressers.

Designing spaces and custom millwork to have more than one function maximizes the use of space. Try built-in banquet seating with storage underneath or a fold-down table or counter that can be propped up when needed, or folded down and out of the way when not. Custom-designed furniture and decorative partitions can be utilized to divide areas and provide visual privacy without building walls.

Yards or even rooftops can be landscaped, hardscaped, shaded and heated to act as an extension of the home, especially in Santa Barbara’s climate. Ideally, the flooring within the home can extend to the exterior via glass doors or a movable glass wall, so the transition from indoors to outdoors is more seamless.

Utilizing light colors and similar colors throughout a house creates an illusion of a larger space. Built-in and well-designed lighting to replace lamps saves energy and reduces clutter. Solar tubes and skylights increase daylighting to make a room brighter and airier, as do mirrors, bay windows or roof dormers. Removing dropped ceilings to create volume is another way to make rooms feel larger and brighter without having to change a home’s foundation. Or, utilizing high ceilings to add a loft adds actual square footage. Providing acoustical solutions for sound privacy is critical in small spaces.

If existing space can be utilized more efficiently, you may even want to carve out some rental space within your home for additional income. A good designer can quickly and inexpensively look at your home and provide ideas specific to your needs. A thoughtful execution is very important as well, so the interior elements are in proportion and the space doesn’t end up looking cluttered or “over-engineered.”

With the right décor, a small home can look sophisticated and luxurious.

— Elisa Garcia is the owner of Garcia Architects, 122 E. Arrellaga St. Click here to read her blog, in which she writes about architecture, design, interiors and management. Garcia can be reached at 805.856.9118 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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