Tiny post-war house dilemmas

When people live in tiny homes, built during the post-war era (or thereabouts) a lot of things used to be smaller. Or missing altogether. Electrical outlets come to mind, for example. Although we are not exactly missing outlets at my house, it’s more like there’s not enough of them. I believe code today says you need one every six feet.  That would be great, luxurious even because our living room where we do most of our hanging out only has three outlets, and one doesn’t work. The other two are connected to power bars with lamps, computers and other energy-sucking devices plugged into them. That is simply not enough in today’s society.

Back in the post-war era, people seem to have managed with less stuff, and I’m not just talking about electronics. I’m talking about the size of things, like furniture, or appliances. The way the kitchens were set up back then wasn’t particularly about esthetics or cosmetics, and sometimes it wasn’t even really about functionality. I look  at the layout of our kitchen now, still the same way it was built back in 1949, and wonder how they managed to function. We’ve done work to the kitchen back when we moved in 10+ years ago, but we didn’t change the layout (too costly at the time)…and then things like microwaves and dishwashers were added in the same sort of fashion how the original kitchen was built. What I mean is, things went where they could fit, not where they would increase efficiency for a busy cook-homework-supervisor-lunch-maker-rushing-off-to-hockey-in-five-minutes kind of person.

We added a dishwasher during the basement renovations, since the ceiling down there was gone and they could easily move the plumbing around. The spot we chose for the washer though is not optimal…but we had many restrictions preventing functionality, and essentially it had to go there because nowhere else was feasible. The cabinet we had added during the ‘updating’ of the kitchen prior to the babies arriving became the new home for the washer. We lost the recycling station but the washer adds more value to me than the hidden drawers with empty cans in them, so I grin and bear the sight of the blue recycling bag hanging from a doorknob.

You adapt, is what I’m saying. (Or maybe I settled. I probably should have focused more on that renovation, but in my defense I was eight months pregnant and had a toilet training toddler on my hands…)

We  love the dishwasher and once the kids grew older and the novelty wore off we delegated the emptying of the washer to them.


But the location of the washer in this inconveniently laid-out kitchen is a pain in the ass. If the door is open to load or unload it, it essentially blocks half the kitchen. So someone wanting to walk from living room through the kitchen to the other end (we’re in a bungalow so the entire house is on one floor) you have to resort to a type of gymnastics to maneuver through there.

Anyway, none of this was a huge issue because we had a dishwasher for the first time ever and it was SO NICE!

Then the kids got older. The house turned into a hotel. I turned into a short-order cook. People were coming and going day and evening, and the location of the dishwasher became a bit of an irritating issue.

Hence the plan to re-design the layout of the house. But I digress. This isn’t about the dishwasher, it’s about the fridge. Or, more specifically, about dimensions of appliances and furniture.

So the fridge broke. Not for the first time either, and this time it wasn’t the functionality of it (the motor was fine). It was the door shelf. I already duct taped the top of the three door shelves, and now the main one where we keep ketchup bottles and pickled jars finally conked out. Left a big mess for me to clean up five minutes before we had to go somewhere for dinner…

The fridge was a standard sized one, and a traditional one. Meaning the freezer compartment was on top. Over time, this became annoying under the mildest circumstances because of where the fridge was located (again, see post-war fit-it-where-you-can mentality) preventing us from opening the door beyond a 90 degree angle. Sometimes this impeded me from reaching certain items located on the bottom shelf behind things while crouching all the way down and reaching all the way back balancing items which blocked something in one hand and holding the door open with my knee.

I’m not crazy about bending over or bending down every 17 seconds.

Point is, once the final shelf fell off, I had a meltdown and we went shopping for a fridge.

We measured. We measured the spot where the fridge goes, several times. We measure the new fridge with and without the handle attached, the hump-thingy on top where the handle ends, and all around in every direction. We made notes, we made sure it would fit in that stupid spot even though knowing that soon we will have a new layout.

Here’s the thing: we didn’t measure the doorway. Not the entrance, or any other doorway. Why didn’t we?

Well, because we have a fridge in our kitchen. Also other appliances, and furniture. We got them in the house, didn’t we? So we assumed the damned appliance would make it into the house…

Well. The front door was ok. Tight but manageable. The problem was the entrance between the living room and the kitchen…there used to be a door there which I took off to give myself the illusion of an open concept house. Well that doorway was one whole inch too narrow.


I should have known this. Years ago after we renovated the basement we bought a lovely couch to put with the new tv downstairs. The delivery guys couldn’t get it down the stairs because of how narrow and short the stairway leading down was. We had to return the couch and buy a sectional one. It’s fine, but it was a hassle and should have taught us the lesson.

The fridge we have now had to be brought in through the backyard. Past the gate, the pool, up the narrow steps, along the narrow hallway and into the kitchen. Of course last night and this morning I had spent hours unloading the old fridge, filling coolers, lining them up along the hallway in the back because I assumed the new fridge will come in through the front door….


So here’s the tips:


Then measure again.

Then go and measure the rest of the house because you can never have enough measurements.

Anyway, I’m on the second mop now, because the old fridge leaked all through the house when they removed it but that’s just as well because a clean(er) floor was due anyway. And the new fridge is lovely! It’s an upside down one, where the freezer compartment is on the bottom. Now, we can take refrigerated items out of the fridge without doing yoga poses to reach items, which I’m looking forward to. That is, when I can actually reload the fridge. They said to wait 24 hours before plugging it in.

So…going back to my blueprints coming for the renovation of this bungalow. The one option they’re going to give us is to leave the layout as is. As of this moment, I can already tell you that that option is moot. Because what’s the point? We’ll have a new house with the  same problems and won’t be able to fit things into it that we want.

So many first world problem.  🙂

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go buy bags of ice to keep my cooler food fresh. I did not anticipate I won’t be able to use the new fridge for 24 hours.





4 thoughts on “Tiny post-war house dilemmas

  1. You are right, many renovation tv shows have the renovators cutting holes in drywall, then patching it up again to get new appliances and furniture into basements. That’s something you might keep in mind for your renovation as well. I have a couple links to floor planners on my home additions website that you might use to help you think about how you might remodel your space. Using these may help you to have a more meaningful dialogue with your architect ….. http://www.home-additions-startup-guide.com/home-addition-redecorate.html

  2. We have a newer house – just 10 years old – and still we had this exact same problem with the new fridge we bought for the basement storage room. We just assumed it would fit because we HAVE a fridge, and it came in to the house SOMEHOW, so duh, it should fit, right? Well, it came in the front door but the basement door was literally the exact same width as the fridge. So they ended up taking off the bannister, then lowering it with some straps because there was no room on either side for a hand or arm, and the whole time I was sure someone was going to lose a foot after dropping it, and it took them like three hours to get it down the stairs. So yes: MEASURE. Many times!

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