After the housing market crashed, many homeowners found themselves having to face the reality that they’d bought into more then just their dream house-they’d also bought heavily into the “bigger is better” philosophy. Since then however, more and more people are realizing that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and having more doesn’t always provide fulfillment. The Slow Home movement supports that growing recognition, and works to enhance the relationship between a home and it’s residents.
Founded in 2006 by architects John Brown, Matthew North, and Carina van Olm, of the Slow Home Studio, the slow home concept came to life in response to what they saw as a growing trend of poorly designed homes. Their goals originated from a desire to provide homeowners with better quality built houses that are designed to promote higher functionality and overall efficiency. They also believe this type of home should be available to potential buyers at a cost that is considered economically reasonable. “Slow homes give us an opportunity to rethink our relationship with our houses,” says Brown. “When a house is well made it will make life easier. We want to help people make sense of their homes in a logical way.”
Slow homes are designed around 12 core philosophies. Focus is attributed to all indoor and outdoor living spaces, high value is placed on quality craftsmanship, and they’re created to be mindful regarding environmental stewardship and sustainability practices. They’re most often compact in size in an effort to reduce unnecessary energy and water usage. Yet, they’re also designed to maximize efficiency throughout a minimal amount of space. In order to promote the use of natural heating and cooling methods, slow homes are orientated to the sun, prevailing winds, and other surrounding elements. An emphasis is also placed on utilizing as much natural lighting as possible.
Similar to the slow food movement, the slow home concept creates homes that combine carefully considered elements so that the overall design of a house benefits residents in the most healthy and enjoyable ways possible. Just as we work to feed our bodies with food and nutrients that promote better efficiency, slow homes offer an environment in which we are better able to live our lives. “Investing in the home in which you live is critical. A home is so important to our well being,” Brown explains with an emphasis on the word home, as opposed to house. “It’s a sanctuary, a retreat. It’s a place where we can be ourselves, a place to raise our children, and to enjoy our life.”
Although a traditional slow home is designed with minimal square footage and is typically situated within walking distance of a local community, it isn’t always realistic for a family to downsize and move, or to make dramatic renovations to their existing home. However, creating a slow home doesn’t have to begin by making major lifestyle changes. In fact, many of the rewards gained through living in a slow home can be obtained by making simple and tangible choices. “Stay where you are and reuse it,” encourages Brown. “It’s a much more environmentally friendly approach then building a whole new house.”
Slow homes focus much more on the attention and care that is contributed by its residents. Brown suggests starting with small changes, such as removing any unused kitchen or other household appliances. He also recommends taking some time to evaluate the function of a variety of existing elements in your home, such as the placement of light switch panels, or even the height of kitchen and bathroom counters. The placement of these types of things should increase your overall efficiency, not work against it. The same goes for the level of decor in a home. If you find yourself spending more time dusting a collection of figurines than actually enjoying them, it’s probably time to rethink their purpose in your home. The true essence of the slow home philosophy can be found in the powerful words of William Morris, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Brown stresses the idea that creating a slow home can be an individual thing, and that it is often an extended work in progress. He says, “you do what you can, when you can. The small incremental changes can end up being a big deal.” To learn more about the slow home movement and to explore additional methods to help you transition your house into a slow home, visit slowhomestudio.com.