Small Space Living
There is no official definition in the UK of a small living space or home. However, there are guidelines on the recommended minimum space which can give us a clue.
Let me start by putting the UK into perspective. We have some of the smallest homes in Europe. Research by Cambridge University in 2014 put us at the top of the table for the smallest new-build homes. Our average is 76 sq m (see table below); the Danish have almost double the space. Lucky them.
I also need to point out that UK living spaces are getting smaller. Data from the Local Authority Building Control, who provide warranties for new-build homes, shows the average UK living room in the 1970s was 25 sq m, today it’s 17 sq m.
This is why small space living is such a hot topic in the UK and why you may need to decide if your home falls into that category. A growing population and limited land space mean the issue is not going away.
Bedsit, flat or house?
There are minimum standards and guidelines for different types of living space. These guidelines are set by the government and local authorities as a way of ensuring people have a reasonable standard of living. I would suggest that anything on or below the minimum can be classified as a small space.
Bedsits in the UK are governed by the ‘Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018’. The Regulations stipulate minimum sizes bedsits, or Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) as they are officially known. There are a variety of HMO configurations, I’ve selected the most popular three:
SINGLE ROOM LETTINGS WITH SHARED KITCHEN
1 person – 10 sq m or more
2 persons – 15 sq m or more
SINGLE ROOM LETTINGS WITH COOKING FACILITIES ONLY
1 person – 13.5 sq m or more
2 persons – 18.5 sq m or more
SINGLE ROOM LETTINGS WITH EN-SUITE FACILITIES ONLY
1 person – 12.5 sq m or more
2 persons – 17.5 sq m or more
So if your bedsit/HMO is the above size or less you can consider yourself to be living in a small space.
Flat or House
In 2015 the UK Government introduced a something called the ‘Nationally Described Space Standard’. It is not a regulation, but more of a guide for new-build homes. There are many sizes based on the number of beds and occupants, but here are the most popular (the full list is available at Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard):
• 1-bed/1-person flat should have a minimum floor area of 39 sq m
• 1-bed/2-person home should be a minimum of 50 sq m
• 2-bed/3-person home should be a minimum of 61 sq m
• 3-bed/5-person home should be a minimum of 86 sq m
However, research from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA. 2011) found the average UK one-bedroom, two-person home is 46 sq m. That’s 4 sq m short of the minimum.
Part of the problem (beyond being a small island with a growing population) is that unlike other countries, homes in the UK are sold on the number of bedrooms rather than square meterage. The result is a lot of small rooms. Moreover, UK consumers like gardens – which leads to less space for the actual building.
Again, if your flat or house is less than the Nationally Described Space Standard, you may consider yourself to be living in a small space.
How to measure your rooms
The most obvious way to measure a room is to get a tape measure. However, not everybody will have one and you may not have the time (or enthusiasm), so a quick way is to walk around the room. Simple. Here’s how…
Walk around the edge of your room, toe to heel. Every 3 steps are roughly 1 metre. Ensure you walk the longest part of the width and length (see diagram).
However you get the measurements, calculating the square meterage is easy. Simply multiply the length by the width. In the diagram, the length is 9m and the width is 6m (which would equate to roughly 27 steps for length and 18 steps for width) so the room size is 54 sq m.
I measured my flat and it’s a total of 85 sq m. So is your home a small space, and does it feel small? Let us know in the comments below.