Designing a Home with “Us” in Mind

So we bought a house. In midst of a global pandemic. It was a very strange experience, but we’re glad it’s over, and now we can start nesting and making it “ours.”

The house itself is on a lake, and the huge windows overlook the lake from the living room, master bedroom, and the loft (which is to become my home office). We fell in love with the view, and also loved the complete renovation of the whole house the seller implemented before putting the house on the market.

Having spent the first 4 months of the Quarantine in a 1 bedroom apartment with my husband and a cat, we as a family is ready to have more space and comfort for the second wave. Being able to design a home to suit our specific needs is exciting, with many opportunities to optimize the spaces available.

I hope to start blogging about “designing my life” and “designing my environment” to help me go from a computer-screen-addicted zombie into a fit, health-conscious, and self-sufficient person (vegetables on the porch?!). There are many different ways to achieve fulfillment, and I think one of mine would be to live in a home I love, surrounded only by things (and ok, people and animals) I love, with as much self-sufficiencies as possible in terms of what we consume.

And our first step into that is purchasing our home, and planning how we should utilize the spaces!

We are trying to balance minimalism and what we need and want in our lives, trying to not fill spaces for the sake of filling them with clutter and furniture. I hope to choose each of our furniture to serve a need or want that will improve our quality of life!

Breaking Away from What “Should” Be

I’ve always had a couch and TV in my living room. That’s just what I’ve grown up to think “should” be in a living room. Forget that I NEVER watch TV (we don’t even have cable), and rarely ever sit on the couch (my cat gets much more use out of it peering out the window to meow at birds).

But in my mind, there’s a “couch” with “coffee table” in front of it, and a “big screen TV” in front of that. How else would we entertain guests? This is one of the first things we’re tackling with our house.

One, we’re in a midst of a global pandemic. WE HAVE NO GUESTS. No one is going to be coming over to chill in the house for another long while. Two, we NEVER watch TV or Movies on the big screen. Also, our “big screen” is definitely not that big. If we’re having a movie night with friends, it’s probably not OUR TV that we’re going to be huddled around. We’d be at someone else’s living room.

Sure, I always “think” about popping a bag of popcorn, selecting a movie, and cocooning on the couch with my husband inside a warm, fluffy blanket. But in the past 3 and a half years of our dating, and the past year of us living together…

How many times have we done that? Absolutely ZERO times. Probably safe to assume that we just are not that kind of couple.

Idea 1: Basement as a Guest Bedroom

For a while, I was gunning to organize the basement as the guest bedroom. The room is huge, has a closet, is separated from all the other parts of the house (since it is the basement), and even has its own full bathroom, equipped with a sink, toilet, and shower.

We had grand ideas about friends staying over to enjoy time away from the cities. Or renting the room out to help with our mortgage, equipping it with an electronic kettle, mini-fridge, and a microwave to make a “bachelor pad” of sorts. With its own access door to the outside world, we could live almost completely separate lives, sharing just the washing machine that is in the utility room in the basement.

I wanted to put the couch and. TV down here, to create a “basement living room” situation of sorts, because the couch could then pull out to become a full sized bed for guests. We’ll still have a “living room,” but we don’t even have to buy an extra bed! Win/Win!

But then again… The Coronavirus. No one was going to come visit for a long time, and we will likely not be taking in any basement dwellers, given schools and offices are mostly still remote, and will be remote for another while. And even when the pandemic does settle down… How often are we expecting guests, really? Maybe few times a year at most?

Does it really make sense to us to waste the biggest room in the house for these guests that may or may not come by once a year? Looping back to the idea that we are designing this house to fit our needs, we decided that this situation probably isn’t what we want either.

Idea 2: Basement as a Gym

My husband has been wanting to utilize the basement as a gym, bringing in a punching bag and working out in the house instead of risking going to a physical gym. With the pandemic locking all of us inside, and with us firmly convinced that the second wave is coming soon, having a place inside the house to work out seemed like a good idea.

But what about the Guest Bedroom? We decided to move the couch into one of the spare bedrooms on the 2nd floor. I wanted our guests to have their own space, but even with sharing the floor with us, we would be on opposite sides of the floor, and they’ll still have their own bathroom. And again, when are we going to be having guests in this climate anyways?

We also started thinking about the TV and the couch separately. We’ll be putting the couch in the “new” guest bedroom upstairs to work as a lounge room and a bedroom for guests, and the TV will stay in the basement so we can stream TV shows and exercise routines while working out.

I’m planning on purchasing an exercise bike for myself to plant in front of the TV so that I can utilize the “vegetate in front of the screen watching videos” time into exercise time every day.

We never use the TV, so we figured what a great way to finally get some use out of the TV we’ve had for years while getting exercise! Hopefully I’ll be able to get some use out of the bike multiple times a week, coupling it with my walks to help with my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Ideally, I’ll be walking at least 4 miles a day, but if the Coronavirus rears up its ugly head too much or if the weather is bad, I want to have the option of getting a good exercise in indoors. After all, what’s the point of having a house if I can’t prioritize what I value in my lifestyle and build around it?

Feeling Satisfied

So we went from entertaining imaginary people in the living room with a couch and TV set to leaving the living room bare aside from the dining table and chairs to create an open area (once we get a dog or two, they’ll really enjoy that!), and creating a gym with big screen TV in the basement, and a guest bedroom/lounge area on the 2nd floor!

I’m glad we’re building and designing our home based on what our actual needs are, rather than what is “normal” or “expected” from a house. It’s hard to dissect what is implanted in your mind as “how things should be” because it’s how you want them to be, or because you come to expect that to be the case from society, media, or family.

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

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