March 5, 2014

Entertaining Walden Pond Style

Three chairs - "one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society".

Why do people desire larger houses? Can't a person entertain guests in a Walden Pond-like 150 square foot tiny home?

One of the reasons many who love big houses give for wanting the large interior space of a boutique hotel is to entertain and have room for guests.

Gleaning comments from our post on Average House Size By Country (NBA's most viewed post ever)  I came up with the following:

"I want to have space for people to visit and stay, and space to host bigger parties and events." 
"I like having separate bedrooms and bathrooms for guests."  
"I like having friends and family stay with me."
"What I am really looking forward to is the luxury that we will be able to host guests comfortably. We can now host exchange students, and know that any visiting friends with children, or our elderly relatives will be more comfortable during their stay. They can recuperate from socialising in their own room rather than being confined to the living room or one of the children's bedrooms."  

Although I admire the generosity of wanting to be a gracious host, I don't entirely understand what lots of room has to do with it unless you have an urge to be an innkeeper. What ever happened to sleeping on an air mattress on the floor?

In the tiny space of my home there is no hazard of losing guests. Everyone can hear anything more than a discreetly camouflaged fart regardless of where they are, making any visit a very sociable affair.

You can't run, or hide. If you come here, we WILL be visiting, which in my view, is the whole reason  for guests in the first place.

Henry David Thoreau didn't like big houses for a variety of reasons, including their influence on social interactions. He thought that small houses fostered more rousing visits.

"I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. 
It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another."

If Thoreau's 150 square feet can host 25 or 30 souls, I imagine my small home could fit over 100 comfortably. Granted, sleeping space, if needed, would be at a premium. 


  1. With ya in spirit, but in practicality....some older folks can't sleep on the floor, while some people, like me really don't wanna. When we had three guest plus two of us and three cats in our little 740 sq ft house things were pretty tight and one or two people had to sit on the floor if we were in the same room. Doable for a weekend, but that's about it. It's so much more comfortable for everyone when there is a bit more space.

    1. min hus,

      We have a couch that converts to a bed for guests, and we have had visitors that have slept on the floor. I'm not sure which would be better, but both of our moms have spent time on the couch and loved it.

      Having more space is nice, but we don't have enough visitors to justify having a larger home for that reason. We are actually thinking of downsizing from our current 586 sq ft to around 400.

      I have seen some small cottages with small outbuildings called "bunkies" for guests to sleep in.

    2. Large homes in which family members all retreat to their own personal space seem unhealthy for family dynamics. I can appreciate wanting to provide a comfortable and private space for guests. I keep furniture only because I recognise that most of our guests will not or cannot sit on the floor and keep our spare bedroom furnished so my elderly parents can visit.

    3. Gam Kau,

      It is definitely nice to have room for ones parents to visit if possible. When Linda and I had a larger place we were able to host my dad during some of his last weeks before passing from brain cancer.

      He enjoyed having his own bedroom, and the bath was just out his door. We bought him a TV and got cable hooked up. He liked to sit on our porch with the neighbour's cat on his lap.

    4. I can think of many worse ways to spend my last days than sitting on a porch with a cat in my lap. How very fortunate for you, and your father, to have been able to provide him with some serenity in his final days.

  2. I agree with Min Hus that it depends on the person. My parents are heavier people and require a certain type of bed (and my dad has bad arthritis), so sleeping on an air mattress or even our lower Ikea bed is not really an option. We've been considering buying a house, but want to find a way to make a 3 bedroom work instead of getting a 4 bedroom for the few times a year relatives visit. We are currently in a 3 bedroom, 1200 sq. ft. duplex, but it is really not conducive to entertaining. We have space in bedrooms for air mattresses, but none of our guests like that idea (or even using our bed and us taking the air mattresses). Our living space is so tiny that it barely fits our small round table, couch, tiny coffee table, and small TV stand. We have my family here for Christmas, and I just got complaints about how cramped it was. In AZ we had the same square footage, but the space was much more open and worked for entertaining. I think the biggest part is the comfort of your guests. My family just chooses to stay in hotels since they want comfortable sleep and some privacy. However, we do get flack for not having a bigger space and them not being able to stay longer due to cost of hotel. It's definitely a hard line to draw between being accommodating and living your values.

    1. Megyn,

      Some house designs are definitely more accommodating than others. While we have hosted up to two guests (three including the dog), it starts to feel cramped after about 2 nights.

      These are important considerations, perhaps more so in N. America where families are often living far away from each other due to economic considerations. Gone are the days where we would all live in the same city or area together for generations.

      My closest family members live a few hours (and one ferry ride) away. The sibling that lives the farthest lives about 5000 km away.

  3. I love this post. Personally the only guests we have are my daughter's sleep over friends from time to time. That's enough for me and then they sleep on piles of soft toys. I watch a show called Escape to the Country, the host always seems to laugh when the buyers who allegedly want to downsize from city living, say for a couple, they need six bedrooms. Just for family staying. The host says how he has observed people buy huge untenable homes for that one reason, or for one time of year, Christmas, when the house might be more full. Thousands of pounds spent o. Possible visitors.

    1. T.M.,

      That is adorable - kids are so much more accommodating. Of course they are way more flexible as well. My mom would never agree to sleeping on a pile of stuffed toys, although our old futon is probably only marginally better.


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