Small houses & flats: Are we becoming `shoebox’ Britain?

A recent report by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) said that the average new three-bedroom house is 8% smaller than the basic recommended space for families to occupy.

RIBA slams house builders for creating developments full of `cramped’ houses and calls it `shameful shoe-box Britain.’

Hard words indeed, but can that be true; are we living in `shoe box Britain?’ or are we just running out of storage space to keep our items?

RIBA’s criticism is based on recommended floor-plan sizes for new homes. But at best, these are simply guides to a property’s size and room layout. Some houses are small, but are they really so different from the `two up, two-down’ terraced properties that generations of British people grew up in over the last 150 years? Perhaps our grandparents didn’t have so much stuff to fill up their homes with – they never seemed quite so small or stuck for storage space.

Even the classic pre-war semi-detached houses of the 20s and 30s, aimed at middle class families of the time, often had a rather cramped layout, with an entrance hall, front room or sitting room (which was rarely used) and a dining room, often separated by a partition door, then a tiny, galley style kitchen.

Fact is, the good old days weren’t as good as many people make out. There was nowhere to vacuum pack your summer clothes, stash your snowboard or store away your Star Wars toy collection back then.

It’s probably true that modern houses often feature fairly narrow rooms, with front doors that can’t take the delivery of hefty items of furniture. But modern Brits have taken to the flat-pack furniture sold by many retailers such as Ikea, Homebase, Argos, DFS and many more, with sofas delivered via patio doors or conservatories at the back of the house. You don’t actually need a whacking great door to get a bedstead through anymore.

It could be that a modern three bedroom house would be big enough, especially for the average Londoner, who typically lives in a shared house, or flat, except that the modern British family simply has far too much stuff? It’s our way of life that has changed.

Anyone who has ventured into a teenager’s room these days will know only too well how much space a TV, DVD player, XBOX, Wii, unused electric guitar, shoes, clothes, laptop and several plates of half-eaten food can take up – you would need a Tardis to cope with it all.

Of course ABC Selfstore has the answer for many space-starved Londoners, with our storage rooms located in Southwark, Wandsworth and Camden. So if your wardrobe, cupboards or loft can’t cope with more stuff, perhaps we can help?

We believe it’s not all about space, but what we do inside our home that’s changed.  Our lives are busier, more gadget-orientated, plus many of us work from home these days, which often adds another set of space-hungry demands on our living space.

RIBA estimate that if new house builders gave us the space we needed, then the typical 3-bedroom house would be 8% bigger. That’s handy, but not the sort of really useful improvement that a garage conversion, garden office or decent conservatory can add to a property.

In the end, maybe our lifestyles have changed faster than house design, and that’s a trend for architects to think about too, not just house builders and planners.  In the meantime however, we think people should continue to enjoy the trappings of modern life but just plan how they live as best they can.  Use space wisely and if you run out, then ABC Selfstore are happy to help store your items for you, so you can enjoy the space of your cosy home.

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