Does The UK Need Larger Homes?

Britain may have some of the smallest homes in Europe, but our changing lifestyle means we do not need as much space as our grandparents did.

Britain has the smallest homes in Europe, and they are getting smaller all the time.

Property expert Laurence Glynne, of London estate agent LDG, says that residential properties in the UK have an average of 85 square metres of floorspace.

But research by the Royal Institute of British Architects reveals that the average size of a new-build one-bed flat is just 46sq m, while the floorspace offered by the average-sized new-build property in England and Wales is just 76sq m.

This compares with 87.7sq m in Ireland, 109.2sq m in Germany, 115.5sq m in the Netherlands and a positively cavernous 137sq m in Denmark.

Even in Japan – where capsule hotels with rooms measuring just 2m x 1m are popular – new homes offer their occupants an average floorspace of 92sq m.

But do we really need larger homes?

Shrink To Fit

London is the only place in England with minimum size standards for new-build private and social housing, starting at 37sq m for a one-bedroom flat. That’s a whole 9sq m less than RIBA’s average.

Smaller homes could be the answer to Britain’s housing crisis, which has prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to pledge that the country will build 200,000 new homes every year until 2020.

New homes may be getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean their owners have to compromise on space, says North London estate agent Paramount Properties.

Developments in technology over the course of the 21st century have eliminated the need to keep photograph albums, CD and record collections, huge piles of videos or DVDs (or even a DVD player) and the increase in popularity of e-readers have even made the need to store shelf upon shelf of printed books completely unnecessary.

Even our documents, such as insurance policies and bank statements, are now stored online.

London-based skip hire specialist ProSkips comments: “Many of our domestic customers consider skip hire as a cost-effective way to carry out a household clearance of unwanted possessions. But the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive does, however, prohibit skip hire forms from accepting old electrical equipment, which must now be recycled.”

Changing Fashions

Household appliances are also shrinking in size. The Guardian reported that a couple in Liverpool whose home was too small for their needs had to store their vacuum cleaner at a family member’s home.

That was back in 2012 when the design of upright vacuum cleaners meant they were commonly stored in understairs cupboards or cloakrooms. Today, vacuum cleaners with more power than models of old have shrunk to a size that allows them to be stored in a large kitchen drawer.

Modern combi boilers that can be concealed in a kitchen cupboard have also eliminated the need for airing cupboards taking up the space needed for a shower cubicle in a modern bathroom.

Changing fashions have also reduced the space required in kitchens and bedrooms.

Few of us now sit down to eat a meal at a dining room table, preferring instead to eat in front of a wall-mounted flatscreen TV.

And while your grandmother might have had a cupboard full of china and silver cutlery that was only brought out on special occasions, who wants or needs more than one set of crockery these days?

The popularity of fast fashion chains, such as Primark and Forever 21, means we no longer need wardrobes that take up 3 or even 4sq m of bedroom space. Instead, we buy cut-price outfits and simply throw them away – or better still recycle them – when they wear out.

A spokesman for Assetgrove – a property business that specialises in maximising landlords’ returns – concludes: “Small living spaces no longer have to be cramped, cluttered or uncomfortable. It all comes down to how they are approached and laid out, along with the lifestyles and habits of those living in them.”

It’s not size that counts, it’s what you do with it.