My yoga class at the gym was particularly full today. We were just about to fold into the first Downward Dog of the day, when a lone man walked into the room and began to squeeze in between me, and the person beside me. I started to shift my mat and belongings over to make space for him. The woman next to me abruptly said, “This is my space, try over there.” The man shrugged and shimmied in next to someone else. I am not sure I would have said anything if it bothered me (which it didn’t). It’s a gym, not a private space.
As the class wound down, and while I was relaxing into Savasana, I couldn’t find that inner silence. My personal thoughts were invaded by the woman’s comment. What I originally judged as rudeness now wandered around in my head with thoughts about personal/private spaces at home.
Homes are generally shared spaces (so are gyms!). Everyone has different boundaries and needs for privacy and for specific tasks. In my family, my husband has his own separate building for the work office of his environmental consulting firm. He would love a full woodshop for his hobby/side business, furniture making. My daughter, an artist, and my son, a professional musician, might never leave the nest if they had studios to pursue their craft. Given that my office doubles as a coat closet, laundry catchall and pet food dispenser with just inches of floor space, a retreat place to do yoga without distractions (or dog-licks) seems like a distant dream. Can these spaces be carved out in a not-so-big house?
Looking at my own family’s needs for personal space makes it easy to visualize what might be needed and just how challenging it might be for others. There’s the noise factor–the guitars, amps and power tools. Not conducive for yoga. There are space requirements for all the equipment, not to mention the collection of downed trees used for the furniture-making. Natural light would be on the top of my daughter’s list for an art studio. The list goes on.
Wait, stop right there. I see emotional triggers popping up all over my cozy, not so quiet econest. With my disdain for McMansions, and limited funds for multiple green renovations, how can we possibly find personal spaces to fit everyone’s needs?
Architect Sarah Susanka, in her Not So Big House books, designs and renovates houses with energy-efficiency in mind and with an eye to spaces that are both public and private. She challenges her clients to discover the ingredients they need to find private spaces in their home. Susanka claims noise, visual separation and physical distance are the main ingredients to look for in private spaces. “In a smaller house creating the perfect space isn’t always possible, but there’s usually a solution that will meet several of your privacy criteria.”
Where to find a private/personal space in your own home:
• Alcoves: Drape eco-fabrics http://www.nearseanaturals.com/browse.php?category=1 or use a folding screen for privacy.
• Window seats: A visually set apart space in a room.
• Staircases: Underneath or on the landing can provide a spot for a small desk or hobby area.
• Master bedrooms. Many bedrooms (not mine) are oversized and have empty corners.
• Formal living rooms. Some are seldom used.
• Guest bedrooms.
• Attics, basements and added lofts.
• Closed doors. When nothing else works.
Obviously, in the spirit of cooperation that is truly unique to families, my own will continue to do its dance towards finding our personal spaces. We’ve toyed with green soundproofing for the room where the music comes from. My daughter has the bedroom with the most natural light and that could be used as an art studio. The garage will need to be tackled for the woodworking shop. My compromise is to continue to go to the gym and work in my makeshift office while my older kids are still flying in and out of the nest. My dogs seem to be willing to wait on the other side of a closed door long enough for me to get into the yoga zone. That is, as long as it’s not near their mealtime.
Maybe I should thank my female yoga devotee at the gym for prodding me to think off mat for space solutions at home. How do you tackle private spaces? Namaste.
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.