Re: Common house questions
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Wed, 3 May 95 03:24 CDT
A reply to "H. Kenneth Walker" on common house questions for his 
12 unit cohousing community in Atlanta. Am I correct that this smells like the
same community about which Wynne Rae asked other questions the other day, 
which I also replied to? Well, now I know where you are. ...

>        a. Do you recommend commercial or residential grade 
>appliances, or specify for which common house appliances, i.e. 
>dishwasher? Do you have recommendations for sizes or specifications for 
>sinks, refrigerators, cooktops, preparation areas.
>        b. How many ovens will we need? 
>        c. Does anyone use a grill/griddle-top in their common house, and 
>with what experience?
        We saved gobs of money by getting residential grade appliances, and so
far, I think, everyone is happy with the decision (not that we had a lot of 
choice, running out of money and all at the end). But really, it may be unfair
and just a coincidence, but I felt vindicated (yet sympathetic) when I visited
Doyle St. cohousing in Emeryville last week and saw that their commercial 
grade stove was badly malfunctioning. We got two residential stoves, side by 
side, giving us two ovens and extra storage area for pans. One also has a 
built-in griddle, which is used on occasion. One nice one may be enough for 
you at about half our size; at times, even our two ovens aren't enough and the
cooks appropriate an oven in someone's home nearby, an easy "cohoesque" 
solution. We have a new fridge (also residential, fairly large) and someone's 
used upright freezer in the pantry. There's currently some debate over 
replacing it with a second fridge. Our dishwasher is also residential, but 
high-end, with an emphasis on quiet so as not to disturb post-meal events. 
That works fine; its down side is that it takes a long time to go through the 
cycle. The commercial ones are very quick, but also very noisy and very 
        Other recommendations: Have lots of prep area so groups can cook 
comfortably; get a deep sink for big pots (our requests for this were ignored 
and we'll probably be replacing one of our two shallow ones soon, at 
considerable expense).

>        What is your experience about size of mailboxes that function 

        I don't recall this being given much thought, but we have pretty small
ones that fit on a single panel, plus two very large boxes alongside them. 
When you get something big, or occasionally when there's too much junk mail 
for the small box, you get instead a key to one of the large ones. Once the 
door is opened, the key is secured in the lock, kind of like a storage locker 
at the bus station. It works quite well for us. Plus the package carriers and 
UPS people have learned that if someone isn't home and there's no space in a 
box, they can leave things with neighbors, and there's almost always someone 
around and about. ... Saving trips to the post office or playing note tag with
UPS, another of the 1001 practical things about cohousing that you didn't 
think of before they happened!

>        What experience/advice do you have about size, material, 
>location, usage, etc. of the common house "information board."

        As much as possible, well lit, subdivided into subject areas and with 
convenient pens and writing surfaces. We have recently reorganized our 
initially too-small, all purpose boards into an interactive communications 
center. The idea is to encourage debate on issues and proposals on the board 
to save time at general meetings. Capital expense proposals must be posted, 
for instance, with time allowed for comment, well in advance of a request for 
consensus at a general meeting. Often they are refined, revamped or withdrawn 
as a result.
        Each of our four main committee clusters has an area, there's a meals 
and cleaning chore area, a master calendar, areas for personal 
requests/offers, neighborhood news, cohousing news, community events, etc. 
Plus we now have small boards outdoors near the common house entrances that 
are for urgent short-notice items. Previously there were a lot of unsightly 
notices taped to the doors themselves.

        I hope this is useful. Good luck.

David Mandel, Southside Park Cohousing, Sacramento

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