“Bedrooms may be smaller now than in 1930, but they house fewer people per bedroom!”
Today, people are being “crammed into former industrial and office premises that were not built for human habitation”
This week, the PM was in Devon talking about ‘build, build, build’:
Meanwhile, in parliament, there’s been a tussle over the government’s programme:
Labour’s shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury told the Commons that thousands of people were being “crammed into former industrial and office premises that were not built for human habitation”. Some had “no or few windows” and some were “as small as 10 square metres”, he added, smaller than the “average car parking space”.
And in the same BBC report, we had a video of new housing units in Southampton:
There’s quite a debate around ‘tiny homes’:
And last month, the Arch Daily looked at how the fashion for tiny homes has waxed and waned – and how we can over-romanticise them:
The tiny home trend has been hard to ignore over the last several years. There’s an increasingly saturated market of TV shows and Pinterest pictures dedicated to the topic of exploring micro-dwellings where your home is reduced to the size of a walk-in-closet and each room takes on a triple-duty programmatic role has only increased its popularity. What looks enticing on reality TV is often much less desirable in real life, and as people continue to long for a lifestyle that frees them of material goods and the ability to travel, what does this mean for the actuality of tiny home construction? Is it just a wanderlust fantasy that no one actually lives and was there ever any promise to its realization in the mainstream world?
Looking further back, in 2006, London created its own minimum space standards:
By that time, the average British house 20% smaller than in 1970s:
but they were about the same size as a 1930s house although the space is differently arranged.
Usable space in houses heated by open fires was much less than room sizes might suggest as not only was the chimney breast taking up space but even more space was lost to the hearth and the fact that heat from the fire could warp furniture.
Average house sizes from 1930-present 1920s-30’s housing set a new high standard over Victorian housing for the workers.
Going back to the late 50s/ 60s, a commentator notes that:
I think that rooms in the houses I visited were a pretty standard size of between 10ft sq (3 M) and 12ft square (3.5 M) unless your parents were rich. Then people started knocking through dining rooms and sitting rooms to make ‘lounges’ and so builders started putting in large family rooms. Then things went even more open plan, but that does not make large open spaces a human need, just a preference or fashion. Large spaces are more difficult to heat so perhaps energy costs were a factor too.
On the other hand, “Bedrooms may be smaller now than in 1930 but they house fewer people per bedroom!”:
Most families in my generation and working class expected to have to share bedrooms up until they left home. They would have separate areas for cooking, eating and sitting; the dining room would double as space for homework, DIY, everything needing a table. This was not very different from the house my father grew up in, except that he and his brother shared a bed. As was also in my Mum’s case where in a 3 bed 1930s Council house they had a big kitchen dining room and a slightly bigger sitting room downstairs, 2 girls in one bedroom, 2 boys in a much smaller room ( both lots sharing beds), parents in another room and a bathroom upstairs.
We can, then, over-romanticise the past.
The same commentator notes a visit to an aunt in the late 60s:
Auntie Phyllis lived in a Victorian brick terrace in Warwick, the door opened from the street into the bottom of the stairs with just enough room to open the door. The door to the living room was on the right, and it was a one up one down with lean-to scullery. Behind the houses ran a brick path which was always damp, as was the house, on the other side of the path was a 3ft (ish) retaining wall which held back the higher gardens, there were 4 steps up to the garden which sloped up behind the houses to the row of toilets at the top. The scullery had a sink and cold tap. The main room must have been about 8ft by 10ft (3m), and then the fireplace space needed to be taken out, I know there was only space in the room for two chairs by the fire and a folding table with two dining chairs. When our family of 4 visited the stool from the kitchen provided the other seat. So the footprint of the house was probably 10ft square with the stair being just short of 2ft wide. The house was very damp, and cold even in summer. It was so damp that not only the wallpaper was falling off the walls but the plaster was too. I vividly remember visiting one Feb day in my early teens when I could feel the cold wind coming through the front wall in places where the mortar between the bricks had gone.