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Downsizing: It Just Suits Me

Articles: Downsizing: It Just Suits Me

View from the terrace back to the gate, the pond, and the shady front garden. Photographs by Mitchell Maher, except as noted

What small-scale living means to one Bay Area gardener.

The space I occupy under roof is a mere 350 square feet, but the space I live in is infinite. Recently, I discovered that the neighbors refer to my studio as “the glass house,” most likely because the top of a twelve-foot-high window above the indoor-outdoor fireplace is what casual passersby see from the street. I like the glass house description, because it captures the sensibilities of living on a small scale without feeling martyred. There’s a fine line between embracing an aesthetic life and a monastic one.

Three years ago, I sat down with an architect whose green credentials were evident in his portfolio and whose enthusiasm for small space design was infectious. At the time, I was living in an 800-square-foot former earthquake cottage in San Francisco that sat on the back end of a typical city lot (twenty-five feet wide by one hundred feet deep). The most valuable part of my little homestead was the land in front of th...

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