What is a Common House For?

This question was posted recently to the cohousing listserv.  As usual there were many great responses. A couple of those seemed useful, so we have gathered them here.  

Raines Cohen offered is take on concepts around the deeper “why” of a Common House:

  • Because through sharing space and resources and time together, we can live longer, happier lives (per research), live in smaller, more efficient homes that cost less and use less energy.
  • Because we value spending time together and want to make it easy to do so.
  • Because it is easier for us all to have a meal together in a space with a kitchen and dining areas designed for the group.
  • Because we don’t want to all have extra guest rooms in our homes.
  • Because we don’t want to all have extra dining rooms for large groups in our homes.
  • Because we don’t want to all have workshops/tool rooms in our homes.
  • Because we don’t want to all have workout/exercise rooms in our homes.
  • Because we don’t want to all have laundry machines in our homes.
  • Because we don’t want to all be isolated all the time, especially as we age, kids move out, etc.
  • Because it is fun to be around other people and enjoy their company.
  • Because it is great to be able to work a little on a puzzle, either together or one at a time.
  • Because we need somewhere to put the bike parking.

Sharon Villines adds:

  • It’s nice to have neutral ground to have meetings in. (Some people with whom I am having a tiff with, I prefer not to go to their homes. And meetings on conflict that easily avoid the issue are harder to keep on-topic when someone insists on serving tea and cookies.)
  • It’s nice to have a place where we can meet without cleaning house first.
  • More spontaneous interaction as people wander through. (I used to go down and work on the puzzle at 5:30 because almost everyone came through for the next hour.)
  • Nice to get together where children can play. Not everyone’s home has things that are interesting to children.
  • More extensive resources in a central location where everyone can use them. Our workshop tools are much more extensive than I would ever have at home, even if I had a big house.

Another question people ask is “What do you put in common house storage?”

(Also from Sharon)

  • Cleaning equipment for each area of the CH so people will clean up after themselves.
  •  We are looking for a place to store a new batch of ping pong balls and paddles.
  • Puzzles, games, cookbooks.
  • Everyone who uses the laundry room regularly keeps a bottle of detergent on a shelf. 12-15 big bottles or boxes.
  • Cubbies large enough to leave a pair of slippers or a mug or a sweater is very nice. Ours will only hold a few flyers or flat things.
  • Storage for occasionally used things like enough vases and candles for each table. Table decorations & birthday celebration stuff.
  • Big jars for recycling everything small — batteries, discs, magic markers, eyeglasses, etc.
  • Pens, pencils, magic markers, stick pins, note paper, 2-3 kinds of tape. A gong to bring meetings to order.
  • Boxes and boxes of tea — they breed.
  • Several coffee makers for large meals.
  • Linens for the guest rooms.
  • Office equipment including paper cutter, paper, printer, computer, etc.
  • Teenager’s video games.
  • Videos and old VCR tapes.
  • Musical instruments in fairly workable condition for play.
  • Food that wasn’t picked up from the CSA drop off or when someone’s refrigerator dies.
  • Projector to project images from a laptop.

And finally, Sharon offers a sample of common house reservations for one week at Takoma Village Cohousing:

MON 6:45 – 8:00 Bring Your Own Dinner (BYOD)/DR

MON 8:00 – 9:30 TVC Board of Directors/LR

TUE 8:00 – 9:30 TVC Women’s Tea & Talk/LR

WED 7:00 – 9:00 Decks/Balconies/Stairs Discussion/LR

WED 8:00 – 9:00 Book Group/FP

THU 6:00 – 7:30 Kids’ Meal/DR

THU 7:30 – 9:30 Community Team/LR

FRI 4:00 – 11:45 Z’s Private Event/DR+LR

FRI 6:30 -12:00 V’s Social/#101

SAT  ALL DAY  Z’s Private Event/DR+LR

SUN 6:00 – 4:45 Z’s Private Event/DR+LR

SUN 7:00 -10:00 Farewell Wine & Cheese/PZ

It’s no wonder people aren’t sure what a common house is used for when they is used for so many things. In the end, there is no limit to the possible uses of a common house. A well designed common house does all these things, and one more – it enables the creativity of each member of a community and the hive mind of them all!  

For more information and to engage in cohousing conversations click here.

Category: Common House Design

Tags: Common House, living in cohousing

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