Creating a simple Home Design. This article is parts of our “Building The Simple House” series. 

This series covers the entire process of building our simple home from start to finish. From permits to plans, construction of the foundation, walls and full exterior, to finishing off the interior – our hope is to document the challenges, trials, tribulations and excitement of building “The Simple House.”

Our goals for the house are simple and straightforward:  Design and build – as much as possible on our own – a minimal cost, energy-efficient, low maintenance home that utilizes only the space we need. A simple home that allows us to live and enjoy the farm now and forever.

solar panels
We hope to use solar panels to help power our homes energy needs – keeping future energy costs down. (photo courtesy of Shutterstock/zstock)

There is a tremendous amount of freedom in living with less. In reality, it will allow us to live with so much more.  More freedom to travel, garden, spend time with family and future grandchildren – and not be held captive by the space, energy and expense of a larger home.

When it comes right down to it – every person, every couple and every family has different needs for what works best for them. With that said, one thing is for sure – there is an awful lot of wasted and unused space in many of the homes built today, and that space is costly, time-consuming and increasingly difficult to maintain as we all grow older. We hope that by eliminating the wasted space and only building what we need – we can create a home at the farm that allows us the freedom to enjoy life.

How small is too small? The disadvantages of a “Tiny Home” concept…

Although the “Tiny Home” concept seems to be all of the rage right now – the reality is that for a lot of people, including us – it simply wouldn’t work long-term. It might be perfect for a young individual or a couple starting out – but perhaps not for two people wanting to create a space to retire to. I don’t think either of us want to spend the later years of our life climbing up a folding ladder into a loft bed each evening – or pulling out a 2′ kitchen table to have our breakfast on with a grandchild. πŸ™‚

We hope to spend much of our time at the farm outdoors - not inside!
We hope to spend much of our time at the farm outdoors – not inside!

So that is where it all begins in creating a simple home design. To truly think about what we space we need to live comfortably – and what that space should look like.

First and foremost, we knew we did not want a big floor plan. The whole point of this project is to create a smaller space – to live with less “stuff” – the unnecessary junk that fills up unused space in homes – and depletes your wallet at the same time. A smaller home has tremendous short and long-term advantages. It is less expensive to build now – and way less expensive to heat, cool and maintain in the future. So the real question becomes for us, how small can we make it to take advantage of all of those savings – without feeling as though we were living our life in a tiny home.

Eliminating underutilized and useless rooms…

For starters, we will completely eliminate the rooms we do not use in our current home. For us, that includes the basement, a living room, dining room and a growing number of spare bedrooms as our kids head to college and beyond. Our current dining room and the living room have essentially become what amounts to an unused show room – filled with furniture, decor and “stuff” that we look at, but rarely ever use!  The same goes for our basement and much of the 2nd floor bedrooms. By eliminating both of those we take out the need for any steps in the future – a huge key to getting around when our legs might not quite be what they are now.

Making the best of the space we do use…

So that leaves us with the space we do use. The fact is, we spend the majority of our current waking hours in two rooms – the kitchen and the family room. It is where we prepare meals, talk, read, visit and entertain. The new plan uses nearly 75% of our space for those activities.

Other than a bed - we don't need to utilize a lot of floor plan space in the bedroom
Other than a bed – we don’t need to utilize a lot of floor plan space in the bedroom

The rest of the space will go to a small master bedroom – (we don’t require need much space to sleep) – a multi purpose attached full bathroom, laundry room, and a spare loft bedroom for when kids, future grandchildren and friends stay.  All in all – right around a total of 1000 square feet.

For our next update in two weeks, we will share the finalized floor plan – and the features and strategies we are trying to incorporate into our 1000 sq. foot “Simple Home”. We hope you enjoy the new series – and as always – we welcome any comments or suggestion you have as we head through the process!

Happy Building! – Jim and Mary

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45 thoughts on “Creating A Simple Home Design To Live With Less – Comfortably

  • November 14, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Assuming you will have a peaked roof, be careful of how high you make the ceiling in the room beneath your loft. I went for a high kitchen when I renovated a small church years ago, without considering that each extra foot of height below cost me a foot (in each direction) of width in the room above. Thanks for sharing what you do! I’ve been reading and enjoying for over a year now.

  • November 14, 2015 at 7:13 am

    You should consider a “bunk room” for the loft to accommodate more grand children & kids all at once.

  • November 13, 2015 at 7:54 am

    I am so excited to learn from this adventure that you’re on! I have been looking at floorplans for my own small house that I will put on land someday. I would love to see you do some youtube videos on your channel along the way too!!
    Best of luck!
    Christy from Kansas

  • November 10, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us! My husband and ! are nearing retirement and would like to downsize as well as move closer to our children who live in other states (one being Ohio). We love the cabin you have selected and
    look forward to learning from your experiences.

  • November 10, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Great idea! However, were is your office? I’m sure you need one to keep everything organized. I also think I would need a basement for storms, storing canned goods, and potatoes. One other note. I have a garden in SE Indiana and grow sweet potatoes. How come you don’t grow them? Love your posts JS

  • November 10, 2015 at 8:58 am

    My husband and I are currently designing a smaller home for ourselves for the EXACT same reasons as you talk about here. We hope to tear down our existing 1500 sq ft old farmhouse, possible use some of the materials, and build something in the 600-800 sq ft range. I will be looking forward to seeing your floor plan!

  • November 9, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I am wanting to build something similar. I look forward to reading about your ideas. Soooooo excited for this series.

  • November 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    After reading all the comments about basement vs. no basement maybe a cellar near the house would provide a place for food storage and storm shelter. Just a thought.

  • November 9, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Boy, I would rethink the basement. At least have a small one. When we built our house, we were able to add a walk out basement for an extra $25,000 which doubled our space and it’s a great place for emergency and food storage as it stays a more constant temperature! We were able to use prepoured walls that they made specifically to go with our floor plan. That was the best decision we ever did in our home build.

  • November 9, 2015 at 8:11 am

    A few quick thoughts on the more time spent planning prevents many I wish we would have… down the road. A HERS rater can help you pinpoint areas that you can improve if done early enough (Energy Efficiency). A great kitchen designer can help make sure your kitchen is not only sized right but laid out based on what you need it to do – for example canning & cooking at the same time. I agree whole heartedly on the “tiny-house” movement, but there are a few good tips & tricks you can pick up from them & also RV manufacturers on storage.

    Hydronic heating is great, just don’t try tying it into solar heating – make sure it & the AC are sized out properly which may involve reduced temperatures to prevent over heating. If you ever run into questions – just shoot me a quick email or call if I can help

  • November 9, 2015 at 2:32 am

    What a great new adventure! I wish you well and will enjoy following along.
    May I offer some observations? My parents built their last home with aging taken, into consideration. Doorways and halls wide eough to accommodate wheelchairs and medical equipment. Bathrooms large enough for lifts and shower chairs, roll-in shower, and a bedroom plenty big enough for hospital beds and hoyer lifts. Both parents were in great health, but things went south very suddenly . Had they built that home without all the handicap accessibilities, they could not have .spent their last years at home. You may want to allow extra space around the bed for medical equipment. Look at your floor plans with wheelchairs and walkers in mind. Your may never need it, but what will you do if one of you (God forbid) suffers a stroke or something? Just something for you to consider if this is to be where you intend to live through old age.

    Best wishes for you I.n this exciting endeavor.

  • November 8, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you so much for talking about the disadvantages of a Tiny Home. I would really like a small farm for my health, but I have a lung disease that makes stairs at night impossible if I’ve had a full day. I would really like it if folks could speak more rationally about how big (or small) is too big (or small) instead of “I can afford a 3-acre house,” or “I can live in less space than you!”

    • November 8, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      That is a great point Terry and one we really hope to tackle as we go through our process. You are so right – its not about who can live smaller or how big the land – its about what works best for each person. Thanks so much for your comments and hope we can continue to provide useful advice for you and others! Jim and Mary

  • November 8, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Look forward to following along, my husband and I are getting ready to sell our larger home and downsize! Can’t wait!

    • November 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you Nancy – we hope you can relate to the excitement and challenges that are among both of us! Let us know how your downsizing project goes.

  • November 8, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Great idea, looking forward to traveling with you. I’ve just finished our plans at 2100 sq ft but we have 2 smaller kids at home, ack! Also, I can say from experience, smaller is much, much better. I work for an older couple and the 13 bathrooms, 2000 plus square foot game room, breakfast, formal dining, media room and 3 kitchens…..well. they are just wasting away. And nobody should have to take 200 steps to get laundry from the dryer to the linen closet, nor unplug the vacuum cleaner to catch the whole master closet, I mean NOBODY.

    • November 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Wow – that sounds like the house you work in would be something else to take care of!!!! We have been there before with the small kids at home – and it is a full time job for sure!!! Good luck on your plans and thanks so much for the encouragement! Jim and Mary

  • November 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Great idea! We adopted this way of life 2 years ago…living large in a small space! We have 1120 square feet. We have a great floor plan and we love it! we also liquidated a lot of “stuff” and live very minimalistic. It’s very freeing. Have fun! Looking forward to your posts.

    • November 8, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      That is so good to hear Becky and it sounds like you are “living large” in a perfect way!!! It is amazing how freeing it is isn’t it??!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • November 8, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I’m really looking forward to this series. My husband and I have just bought a meadow of a little more than 1 acre. We want to build a home there next year. We are both 62 so it is fitting for us as it is for you. Really enjoy your news every week, thank you. We live in the north east of The Netherlands, perhaps you have more international readers.

    • November 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      Lindylou – That is so incredible and glad that you and your husband are going to do the same on your land! It sounds like a perfect space as well – and so glad to hear from our international readers as well! be sure to let us know about your journey as well! Jim and Mary

  • November 8, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Great plan.the funny thing is that for europe and certainly asia, 1000 sq feet ,92 m2 is a huge space. Lots of family of 4/5 people live that way.

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks so much Bella – and you are so right – many all around the world live with so much less space and do it very well!

  • November 8, 2015 at 11:50 am

    So glad you’re finally beginning this part of your journey! This is going to be fun, thanks for taking us with you!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks so much and so nice to hear all of the good wishes from everyone! We are more than glad to share and hope that others can be helped by it as well in their journey!

  • November 8, 2015 at 11:44 am

    I am excited for you and grateful you are willing to share your journey. I am in the beginning planning stages of a similar adventure. Tentative start date in July! Best of luck and I will be folowing!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Maryanne – thanks so much for your comment and it means so much to us to hear that others are doing the same! Best of luck to you as well!!!

  • November 8, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I am so excited for you to begin this next phase of moving to the farm. Looking forward to seeing your floor plan. And your posts.

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks so much Peggy!!! We are so glad to have so many like you following along!

  • November 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

    We built our log home 50 yrs. ago with all the same thinking as you have right now . There was never any regrets I am writing this to give you one piece of advice—PUT A BASEMENT UNDER YOUR DREAM HOUSE. You will be thankful later. It will be worth it . We have a basement–it’s a must !!!!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks so much Laura = I bet the log home is amazing – so neat that you live in the home you built 50 years ago! We have talked many times back and forth about the basement and put a lot of thought into when it comes to the slab holding our heating source. You make a great point though about having one! Thanks so much for the writing to us!

  • November 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Hi there,

    I’ve watched your progress eagerly as you have created your paradise. I am amazed, grateful and happy that you are sharing your project with us.

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Thank you so much Katie – so nice of you say and so glad you are looking forward to it!

  • November 8, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I have done a lot of research on Tiny House living and have determined it wouldn’t work for my husband and I either. We are in our 50s and 60s now and I can’t imagine hoisting ourselves up that ladder every evening and God forbid we should need to use the facilities in the middle of the night!
    I personally love your Simple House idea. I have moved 16 times in my life and have learned not to acquire stuff that I would just need to move at some point. Simply designed furniture, that you build yourself, has so much more meaning and warmth. You are on the right path, good luck on this massive labour of love!

    I will be interested to see what you do with sustainable energy.

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Jane – so good to hear from you!- it sounds like you both have the same thoughts as we do with the tiny house concept. Thanks so much for the encouragement and good wishes – the same to you and your husband!!! Jim and Mary

  • November 8, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Hi, my question is Why? Would you build a loft for visitors and not make a small bedroom on the same floor. You would still have to climb to get to the bedroom to maintain it and clean it when you get older. I am older and my next house will all be on the main floor,including the spare guest bedroom.
    Have an Awesome Day!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Janice – that is a great question and one we have talked about a lot. With the open floor and ceiling concept – it was a lot cheaper to add the extra space into the loft – as opposed to a bigger main floor and more added space to heat and enclose. The loft will be designed to be closed off if needed later on so we do not need to heat and cool – and we will also have one of the couches downstairs to be a pullout bed if guests wish to stay down as well. But you really have a great point and one we have thought about a lot. Thanks so much and hope you have an awesome day as well!

  • November 8, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I wouldn’t rule out a basement, yes stuff finds it way there but I use mine for all my canning and supplies. But for us it a safe place from tornadoes( you may not have this problem). My house is 1100 sq ft with a 20X18 basement. Can’t wait to see your new home. Have a great day!!!!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks so much Sue for the comment – we have talked many times about a basement / no basement – and finally decided for us, that with the radiant heat we are putting into the slab foundation we would go without one. But your point is a great one! Thanks so much for following along with our journey and the advice – and hope you have a great day as well! – Jim

  • November 8, 2015 at 8:49 am

    My husband and I are in the process of doing the same thing. I will be interested to see your concepts!

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks so much Karin – it is amazing just based on today’s comments to see how many people are starting the same process! Good luck in yours as well!

  • November 8, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Oh very cool. Our farmhouse is a cozy 1200 sq ft. I was thinking we needed to close in the garage but now after reading this, I think I just need to plan our space better. Ok! To say I’m looking forward to your process is an understatement! We won’t move out there for another year or so. Perfect timing. πŸ™‚

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Hi Cecilia! That sounds like a perfect sized farmhouse! We hope to move in a year as well so sounds like we will be timing it together!

  • November 8, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Wishing you the best of luck with your project! I’m also intrigued with the tiny house concept, but agree that it’s not practical for everyone. Your “simple house” concept is a great alternative, and I’m looking forward to watching the progress.

    • November 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you so much Patricia! We are excited to get it started and finally live at the farm!

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