A Room Just For Christmas

I have more than one acquaintance who has acquired or built enormous houses. We’re talking four to six thousand square feet. They’re inevitably way out in the suburbs, because that’s the only place they’re affordable. These folks aren’t the idle rich–they’re the upper-middle class with mansion-envy.

Unless you’ve got a brood of six kids (in the cases I’m thinking of, they’re families of two, three and five respectively), or plenty of extended family living with you, I really frown on this. I know I should keep my nose out of other people’s business, but huge houses seem like enormous wastes of money and energy.

If you’re four people living in a 5000 square foot house, there are probably a lot of rooms which are underused. And yet people pay to furnish, decorate and heat those rooms. Why have spaces which you don’t regularly use?

Personally, I’d much rather have a 2500 square foot house (and even that strikes me as on the big side) which is beautifully appointed with unique pieces than a 5000 square foot house furnished out of a catalog (which seems to often be the case).

I was reminded of this pet peeve when talking to somebody about how they acquired their grand piano. As it turns out, they bought it from a couple who was downsizing from one of these sprawling suburban abodes.

They’d kept the piano in a room–get this–dedicated exclusively to Christmas. It was a salon decorated for the Yuletide season, and only used in the month of December. They’d have little parties in there, and bring somebody in to play the piano (nobody in the family could actually play the thing). Have you ever heard of anything more bourgeois?


  1. “My friend just built a house that’s huge. They have a hot tub outside, a patio, walk in wardrobes, six bedrooms, it’s amazing.

    But I’ve a better job than him so I should be able to build a bigger house just so everyone knows I have a better job than him.”

    Smaller living is better, less environmental footprint, less maintenance, and less waste to name just a few of the benefits.

  2. Yikes…we’re about to have a family of four living in 1040 sq-ft.

    Of course, most of Vancouver lives this way. They rent out their basements, but still think they have 2000 or 2500-sq-ft. Then they have the gall to accuse me of living in a shoebox.

  3. I’ve always wanted (when I’m super-rich) to buy a HUGE lot in the middle of the city, blow down the house and build a 2000-square-foot low-slung ultra-modern bungalow with an enormous garden.

    Of course, it’s still conspicuious consumption, but on a slightly different tack…

  4. I think a large proportion of pianos (especially grand pianos) are bought as furniture, not musical instruments, which is a shame when they cost $20,000 and up. Musicians I know mostly either own upright pianos or, now, digital ones that they can cart around and use headphones with.

    I recall playing a house party at a Shaughnessy mansion with my band a couple of years ago, where there was a huge polished Yamaha grand piano in the living room next to where we had set up. (It was even one of the newer computerized ones that is not only a full grand piano, but can also play itself.) We thought of using it for part of our show, so Mark, our most talented multi-instrumentalist, sat down to try it out.

    It was horribly out of tune, and probably had been for years. Quite unfortunate.

  5. Some people have too much money, buying a piano to be used only as a piece of furniture.
    The house we have almost finished building is just under 1400 square feet. That includes loft bedroom with ensuite. Big room downstairs used as kitchen dining room and living room, tiny bathroom, small second bedroom, miniscule mudroom and laundry combined. There is a full unfinished basement which houses the wood heater. In the future there will be another bedroom down there. So a family of four could live here quite comfortably.

  6. Darren, i thought you intended building a 10,000 square foot mansion in that Island in BC where you have purchased land?

    I think you said that in an earlier post, though i can’t find it.

  7. Bobby: Er, nope. I can’t find any reference to the size of our planned house on Pender on this site, but we’re looking at about 2000 square feet–I may have said that somewhere.

    Even if I wanted one, I certainly couldn’t afford a 10,000 square foot house, and it would require some remarkable engineering, given the uneven terrain on our property.

  8. Darren, Ill take your word for it. In any case, there’s no shame in negotiating the construction of a 10,000 Square foot house should your funds be favourable.

  9. Bobby: No worries, but I do think there’s plenty of shame in building such a home, for all the reasons I and others have cited.

  10. I’m a fan of SSBS – Small Space Big Style. Most of the homes featured on this cable program are 900 sq ft apartments in NYC. What they do with the space is amazing.

    I have a family of six and live in a smaller, post-war home and still DREAM about a smaller abode.

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