My Slow Home: Just What We Need, Plus a Garden or Two

My Slow Home: Just What We Need, Plus a Garden or Two

Amber Byfield
Aug 19, 2011

After almost 18 months of constant home projects in our first home (a 1966 ranch with an open floor plan), my husband and I have been quietly and carefully uttering the words, "We're almost there." Granted, we understand that our first home will never really be done, done, but it has undergone quite the transformation since the day we got the keys. We have reached a point at which we feel at home in our house, and love spending time here. It's just what we need, and not much more than that.

When looking for a house, our list of priorities went as follows: find a place in a walkable/bike-able neighborhood, on the small side, with lots of natural light, and good yard space if at all possible. We found exactly what we were looking for, and just to keep things interesting, it needed a lot of TLC.

Location and Footprint
With our favorite bar an easy four-mile bike ride away, we manage to spend the majority of our free time within a comfortable radius of our house. We have also found that living in a walkable neighborhood with a dog who loves to run keeps us interacting with our neighbors. We've made new friends and feel a true sense of community—exactly what a neighborhood is for.

We wanted a small house, but one that we might expect to grow into (or would at least be appealing for resale value). So three bedrooms seemed about right; a master, an office, and a guest. Each of the rooms is small, ranging from 10-by-12 to 11-by-17 feet, which means we are encouraged to keep them clean and uncluttered. We simply don't have room for excessive items or large furniture, and embracing that makes our floor plan feel even more open and airy.

Layout, Design, and Energy
Our house has a very unique feature separating the parlor and living/dining area: a partial rock wall, original to the 1966 house. It's even got a built-in planter. Some people have suggested we take it out, but we're quite fond of our rock wall. Not only does it bring character and remind us to constantly work with what we've got, but it also divides the space so effortlessly and makes perfect sense in the floor plan. We know you can't buy that kind of room divider! It was also the inspiration behind updating our floors to concrete. We pulled up old carpet and had the floors throughout most of the house refinished. The concrete is cool (perfect place for the pup to cool off), easy to care for, and adds a textural design element.

The galley-style kitchen is my favorite part of the house, where I spend a lot of time. But with fairly limited space, I am forced to keep only the kitchen pieces that make the most sense for our lifestyle. We cut out big things (microwave and coffee maker) and use our space smartly, all the while aiming to keep counters clean and clutter-free. Cutting out many small appliances means we use less energy. I cook most nights, and the kitchen, now that we have a dishwasher, is extremely efficient in many ways. The tall window in the small kitchen makes it feel like a bigger space and brings in plenty of heart-warming natural light. It's prettiest in the mornings, where I brew stovetop espresso.

Outdoor Living
Until the heat wave killed pretty much everything, our gardens were the crown jewel. Prior to the summer's 100-plus daily temps, we were harvesting a good chunk of our weekly veggies, from greens to tomatoes, and even managed to throw two small dinner parties sourced from our own backyard. Once fall comes around (and hopefully brings rain with it), we plan on revamping our beds and growing wonderful crops once more! Our large backyard is also a great place to spend quality time with our dog Fin as well as our neighbors and friends. We spend a lot of time in the front yard, too, greeting passers-by as we drink coffee on the front porch.

We take care to use less water and energy, compost our food scraps, and are prepared to harvest rain water (please do a rain dance for us). We take steps in our daily lives to live sustainably. And at the end of the day, we each utter the sentiment: "I love being home."

If your home has a small but efficient footprint, like ours, here are the Slow Home principles you can put to use:

• Only bring things into your home that you need or love.
• When space is limited, it's especially wise to buy once, and buy well.
• When settling into any space, organize and then containerize. Donate or recycle the things you don't need, and then figure out how to efficiently store what's left.

And if your home boasts plenty of outside space, here are a few more to follow:
• As a friend once told us, "If you have the space, your front yard should be curb appeal, and your backyard a farm." Use the space you have to grow any kind of produce you like. Start small, with herbs, and grow your garden into a place of sustenance for the family.
• Live in all of your space; create outdoor living areas that are just as much a part of your home as the inside.
• Utilize space for sustainable practices, like composting, rain harvesting, and more.

Related Posts:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: A Slow Home Manifesto
My Slow Home: An Experiment in Small and Simple Living
&bull: My Slow Home: A Small Space with Clever Storage and Earth-Friendly Practices

(Images: Amber Byfield for Re-Nest)

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