Re: commonhouse design
From: Jim Snyder-Grant (
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 10:05:01 -0600 (MDT)
Observations from New View (Acton MA) - now in our third year of the common
house (6th year of living here).

We built the largest space we could reasonably enclose with our budget. That
meant a single floor finished for now, and an unfinished (walk-out) basement
for finishing some other day. Our rooms include "a large kitchen and dining
room" and "a (young) kids play area" but not "an adult media/reading room".
Oh, and two HP-accessible bathrooms.

We have Yoga classes once or twice a week in the dining area.  It works
fine. Two folks show up early, and another two stay late, to do the table &
chair moving (and sweeping if needed). Consider it a yoga warm-up or

'Crafts' -- depends on what sort. Smelly? Messy? Needs supervision or
locking up?  You might want to find out who is doing what sort crafts
actively NOW -- the idea that you will magically take up new crafts just
because you have a space for it in the common house is, I believe, a
dangerous illusion to take in to the CH process.   We have a kids paper &
scissors & crayons table downstairs, and that's about it. We have had big
succcessful craft days, where folks take over the whole dining room for a
day. It takes some planning, set-up and clean-up, but they have been great
fun. We get one or two grown-ups to sponsor each craft, and kids sign up.
Sort of a one-day crafts-camp experience.

I'm not good at remembering or estimating room sizes. Our dining area is
divided a bit by some small half-height walls and some flooring and paint
and ceiling changes into a few areas, so folks wanting a smaller space
feeling can cluster in to one of the alcoves. One area has no dining rom
tables - just comfy chairs. It often gets used for committee or small group
meetings, or for kids to play games, or for reading to younger kids.

We do NOT have acoustic isolation between kitchen and DR. That was a tricky
decision, but it's been generally great. The cooks and cleaners stay
connected to the eaters, which helps with creating cohesion and easy
connection. The dishwasher only runs for a 90-second cycle, and isn't THAT
loud. During Yoga, we un-plug the refrigerator (and someone puts their shoes
there, so we don't forget to plug it back in!)

In our circumstances, square foot costs & constraints were a lot tighter in
the CH than inteh homes. So we decided early on to accept some people's word
that they would be interested in having visitors stay in their extra rooms.
And that has worked out well. Some are free, some charge, some are private,
some are shared. But the supply seems to meet the demand.

Our inside kid space is relatively small, mostly for toddlers.  We also have
an appropriately dank & mysterious space in the basement which is used by
the teens on occaison, especially during cold months. Many many months out
of the year, kids play outside. There's a small sandbox (originally
left-over construction sand, now replaced by us) right outside the CH that
gets a lot of year-round use as well.


Jim Snyder-Grant
jimsg [at]
18 Half Moon Hill
Acton MA 01720
New View Cohousing

----- Original Message -----
From: <MerylD [at]>
To: <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2002 10:12 AM
Subject: [C-L]_commonhouse design

Well after many years of frustration and failure, it looks like we are
finally creating cohousing here in South Florida! We are working with a
developer to create a community of 32 units on 3.6 acres. We're planning to
break ground within the year.

We are about to embark on commonhouse design; it will be about 3,000 sq ft.
An earlier effort to create cohousing here included a 4,000 sq ft
commonhouse. While we can use that somewhat as a model, I am hoping to get
information from people who already have a standing commonhouse as to which
rooms and room sizes are most important-- and most importantly, most used.

I'd love to hear suggestions from you'all about how we should design the
commonhouse, room-wise, and what sizes the rooms should be. We know we want
large kitchen and dining room, a kids play area, an adult media/reading
and bathrooms. Some of us also want to do crafts and yoga regularly, but
we're unclear whether a separate room will be needed, or whether the dining
room easily doubles for those (perhaps with folding doors to make the larger
room smaller?)? And are guest rooms an efficient use of space, or are we
better off just having a Murphy bed in the media room? Also, how large
the kids' play area be?

Thanks for  any input!

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