I was reading a recent article on HGTVpro.com about features that homeowners are incorporating into their new homes or remodeling projects, and while not all of them have to do with efficiency, I kept seeing that word over and over in relation to space, energy, storage, finances, etc. Efficiency in our culture is definitely a new buzzword. So while you can look up the full article on HGTV's website, I thought I would share a few of their ideas and a few of my own on how to incorporate efficiency into your new housing project.
With the recent dip in the economy, we are trying to make everything stretch a little further, our food, our clothes, our dollar, and even our homes. Here are a few tips on how to make the space you currently have or are planning to have the most efficient they can be.
Start by thinking smaller. Though many of us think we do not have enough space, really, we don't use the space we have to its fullest potential. If you think smaller but smarter, you are on your way to better efficiency. Sarah Susanka, in her "Not So Big..." books, is a huge proponent of working with less square footage in your home but maximizing its potential to make it feel and function larger than it really is. Through open-concept floor plans, higher ceilings, ample natural daylight, and multi-purpose spaces, a smaller house can actually fit your needs better than a larger one.
Thinking smarter entails efficient design ideas that are customized to serve your needs. An open-concept floor plan that flows from your kitchen to your eating area to your living area can often be much smaller than if they were individual rooms because the spaces integrate and borrow from each other. There are fewer distinct boundaries, so the space feels much larger overall and still fulfills all the necessary functions. Incorporating customized storage into the mix keeps everything organized and in place, removing the clutter that often makes a house feel smaller and inefficient. For custom storage, think about built-in pieces such as cabinets with open shelving above for an office, an entertainment area that integrates your media, fireplace, and storage all in one configuration, or perhaps a study area for the kids that has a place for them to do their homework as well as store their art supplies, toys, and books. Built-ins can be large or small and can often fit in little nooks and crannies that maximize the layout of your home and offer a very personal design touch.
Customized storage also allows you to use the same space for multiple uses depending on current space demand. An excellent example is a home office that uses built-in storage to organize the space while also incorporating a hidden Murphy bed that can fold down into the open room when guests arrive. Many home offices are beginning to encourage work efficiency by incorporating features that lead to productivity and convenience in the work environment. Media centers to organize all the TV, computer, and phone, as well as refrigerators and storage for snacks and drinks, help provide everything that may be needed within the office. These items would also make a guest feel like they were staying in a hotel room. So for those who only have one room to spare in their house, think of ways to multi-purpose it and achieve all your desired goals.
No matter what size home you live in, increasing the amount of daylight, you let into your home, whether through windows, glass doors, skylights, or solar tubes, allows you to take advantage of a free (thus economically efficient) and natural way to brighten and warm your home. Rooms with natural daylight also often seem larger. Not only is the space brighter, but the windows extend your line of sight beyond the confines of your home and into the wonders of the natural environment. Increasing the amount of natural daylight also minimizes the amount of artificial light used in your home. So during the day, take advantage of the sun to light and warm your home and at night, invest in energy-efficient light bulbs, such as compact fluorescent.
In addition to maximizing the efficiency of the space in your home, think about maximizing the efficiency of the items in your home. Investing in high-efficiency HVAC systems, tankless water heaters, and energy-efficient appliances for your kitchen will not only help lower your energy usage but should also help lower your utility bills as well.
Efficiency can be applied to many areas of our lives, not just our homes, so I hope this article got you thinking of ways to make the most use of what you have to work with. And while you may not be able to do all these things at once, keep them in mind the next time you want to make your space work for you rather than against you.