The trend toward downsizing is an economic reality in today’s market, as we wrote about in a previous article. Closely related to this trend toward downsizing is the “slow home” movement, which takes a more community focus, designing for utility, sociability and sustainability.
But first, how did we get to the point where a slow home design would have merit? After World War II, the U.S. needed shelter—quickly and a lot of it— to accommodate the growing middle class. As a society, we developed more and better ways to be fast, faster, fastest. Beginning with fast food, fast cars, convenience stores, computers, email, mobile phones, overnight packages and transcontinental jets, we developed a taste for immediacy that surpassed all other factors.
But we also lost bits and pieces in our speedy lives. We lost knowing neighbors, sitting around the dinner table telling stories, and building a home that met our needs. Like the slow home trend, the log home lifestyle seems to follow a similar, more leisurely track, shifting from the fast lane to a measured pace, an inclusiveness in our surroundings, and a return to some of the simpler things in life.
Log home enthusiasts are building for their lifestyle more often than not. Log homes, with all their modernity, sophisticated insulation packages, and technological enhancements, still represent a slice of our history in the rustic designs. As such they seem likely candidates for a shift into slow home designs.
So what is slow home design? According to slow home experts there are a number of goals to achieve for slow homes.
- Sustainability. Building with sustainable materials, limiting waste and building for durability are all elements of slow home design. Using sustainable logs as the primary building material, log homes are among the most sustainable housing that’s built on a mass scale.
- Accessibility. Building a smaller, energy efficient home that is designed for its occupants, rather than for the approval of the neighbors. There’s something satisfying about designing your log home to suit your individual tastes and desires, with designers who can also facilitate the best possible use of space, light and flow. Slow home design incorporates an owner in many stages of life, and so is adaptable when mobility may become and issue or family members return for gatherings.
- People space. Slow home design creates places for social interaction rather than passive entertainment. An open design with kitchen dining and family room areas keep people in conversation together, rather than segregating by activity, such as television, gaming or computers. Workshops or sewing rooms where family members can share hobbies might also be incorporated. Slow homes might mean thinking about areas making outdoor activities easier to share, like large functional mud rooms, or easy-access storage for bikes and skis to make keeping active a regular family experience.
- Pedestrian friendly. Some slow communities are being developed around the small village model, allowing services and amenities to be within walking or bicycling distance. New zoning and comprehensive plans accommodate cluster housing developments, which keep neighbors in comfortable contact, and keeping plenty of open space for outdoor activities. As populations and communities age, having a mix of young families close by keeps seniors active and involved in their surroundings.
While it may be a difficult transition to this measured approach to living for some, many experts believe that it can be accomplished. Perhaps for many people considering building in the future, some of the elements of slow homes can be considered as an improvement in design for the people living in these unhurried, efficient and sensible homes.