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Would you prefer a small house or a damp house?

  • by JW

The evolution of the house plan in Europe.

Living in damp and mouldy housing in the UK.


The emerging Local Plan consultation asked for opinion on the size of rooms for new housing developments in East Devon:

5.10.6: Setting minimum floor space or room size standards for new homes that must be met in new developments.

East Devon Local Plan 2021 to 2040 – Issues and Options Consultation – January 2021

And these news pages have looked at both the issues and the context around ‘size’:

Tiny homes then and now… – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Turning shops and offices into ‘tiny homes’ – Vision Group for Sidmouth.


A fascinating study has just come out on the Arch Daily website on the ‘Evolution of the House Plan in Europe: from the Industrial Revolution to the Interwar Period’.

Here are a couple of excerpts which focus on size:

Back to Back Houses to the Garden Cities of England

But one of the most popular types of housing were the Back-to-Back houses in the industrial towns of midland and north England. The adjoining string of houses (2 to 3 floors) suggested an interior model that was extremely small with single stacked rooms of less than 15sqm. They would typically have the kitchen and washroom on the ground floor and one to two bedrooms on the first floor. Sometimes they could even include a small attic and back yard. However, they didn’t have enough openings or windows, with only one exposed facade and “blind-backs”…

The Extension of Amsterdam: From Alcove Housing to Social Housing Blocks

From 1850 to 1920, although Amsterdam’s population grew by almost three times, the city did not increase in size. The modernization of the city started effectively when the North Sea canal was executed, and Kalf established the 1875 extension plan. Leaving building for developers, a clear contrast developed between the bourgeois neighborhoods and the working-class districts was established, especially with the introduction of “alcove housing” or very small houses of 20 square meters, one room per family, with bed cubicles in recesses in the kitchen… 

Evolution of the House Plan in Europe: from the Industrial Revolution to the Interwar Period | ArchDaily


As a commentator points out:

“When people complain about small houses, point them to this article.

“It is difficult to imagine how people lived, but the ‘alcove housing’ gives you an idea of what people would have had at a time when they constructed their own single-room dwellings. They would have seen that as an upgrade, as it was at least dry and warm.”


Compare what the same commentator says in an earlier news piece, when talking about 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 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.

Tiny homes then and now… – Vision Group for Sidmouth


So, perhaps ‘size’ is not the point, but the quality of housing in the UK – old and new:

What do people in the UK mean when they talk about “the damp” in their homes? : AskUK

Homes Act 2018: Is dampness back in the spotlight?

Health and Moisture in Buildings – report 2019

Tenants will get right to sue landlords for damp or mouldy homes this month – Mirror Online

Cold damp house transformed by Passivhaus retrofit refurbishment — Paul McAlister Architects