Re: Most popular Common House amenities
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004 08:28:16 -0800 (PST)

On Dec 30, 2004, at 9:48 PM, Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community wrote:

We have just finished a fascinating meeting where we discussed what amenities, types and sizes of rooms to include in the Common House. We covered everything from sound-proof (music/multipurpose room), to craft rooms, exercise room, woodworking room, children's room, teen room, living room (with library), shared office, guest rooms, laundry, mudroom, kitchen, dining room, pantry and storage lockers.

After four years we have just begun reallocating space in the commonhouse. The real hard question here is not how much rooms are used in terms of actually hours but how much they mean to the people who use them. One of our members suggested that what is important is that each community member have one amenity in the commonhouse that is important to them. The theory is that if each person has something they care about, they will support others in what they care about.

The most important room to me is the sunroom-- actually a nook off the dining room. It's bright and sunny, soft furniture, room for a puzzle table, and centrally located so everyone walks by there and you can also see the piazza and the main entrance. If you sit there for a few minutes, someone will soon join you.

The exercise room is used religiously by a few people who care very much about it. It is also a big selling point when we have unit sales. A very small minority are adamant about the hot tub which is also a selling point. People are very impressed.

Almost everyone wants cable television in the commonhouse -- some so they don't have to have it at home and others because they like watching in groups. So a television room is important.

Most used is the kids room for the under 6 crowd. The most common activity is people meeting somewhere in the commonhouse to talk (daily), watch the kids play (daily), team meetings (daily almost).

Having a large space for meals on holidays and whenever is important but not a daily activity. This space is best used if it is multi-purpose -- lots of storage for games, etc. -- and soft furniture as well as tables. A great room where many things can happen comfortably. We have started showing movies in ours.

Much clamoring for intergenerational active play space where teens can hang out and parents of older kids can send them to play has produced little action. We set up a game room with an air hockey game that was used a lot for a month or so has been very quiet for the next two months.

The workshop has been used for projects but no one has really taken charge of it so it is mostly storage for facilities stuff -- ladders, lawnmowers, cleaning chemicals -- anything that needs to be locked up like wine and beer.

Any space you open has to have someone in charge of it, otherwise it turns in to a closet. Stuff just gets dumped there and no one knows where it came from or who is authorized to remove it.

We just turned our music room into a game room. The music room was something people wanted but almost no one used. It wasn't large enough for group sing alongs.

We have two guest rooms connected by a hall with one bathroom which are very frequently in use. (All my guests complain about sharing a bathroom with strangers.)

The laundry room is used regularly by fewer people than when we moved in. Gradually most have bought their own machines. Those who use it most are people with smaller units who do not want to waste space on their own machines.

Do you have enough storage? How did you accommodate large items like skis, kayaks, bicycles, Christmas trees, recreational and camping equipment?

Storage is a big issue. And we need to make a distinction between storage for commonly owned items and privately owned items. Privately owned items stored in commonspace are a problem because there has to be enough for everyone. Does everyone have a bike rack? Or a kayak bin? We have a bike room that only holds 10 bikes and at least 38 bikes. It creates unfairness and friction.

We need much more storage for things like games, books, maintenance equipment, etc. that we had when we moved in. Just include lots of large cupboards. Many of ours are too small for what we need to store -- basically they are kitchen cupboard and badly designed for getting anything larger than a plate into them.

This is a very important issue and one I hope you will post again after the holidays so you get lots of responses. Everyone starts out wanting all the great things in the world but with a small community, you have to go with what your specific members will use. The best measure of this is "What do they use now?" It is not a good measure to use "What do I want?" This tends to bring out desired or things people think they would do if they only had ________. Generally they don't. This is true in all condominiums. People choose this one or that one because they have a pool or an exercise room or an office suite, but very few ever use them.

Commonhouses are time consuming and expensive to maintain. Only build what you need and want to clean. I pick our main area (dining room, mail room, front hall) up 2-3 times a week, it gets a good cleaning every two weeks, and we have a point person for each small room who has to clean and supervise equipment use, etc. It is a lot of work.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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