Our changing homes show we’re craving more connection – and not the online sort

OPINION: When Donna Holmes planned her holiday home, she had one stipulation: it should be quite small, so that her family were forced to rub along together.

In her job as a nurse in the Wairarapa, Holmes sees lots of high-needs people: people who are sick and lack real home and community connections. And she reckons the Kiwi propensity to build big houses isn’t helping. At an average of 218 square metres our homes are the third largest in the Western world, after America (249.5sqm) and Australia (231sqm).

Donna Holmes’ grand-daughter Sunny climbs the ladder to the mezzanine floor, where the children throw their mattresses down to sleep at night.

“Our houses have got so big we’re not even crossing paths with our own family sometimes. Even a shared bathroom makes us engage,” she says.

With this in mind, the Herbertville home designed by her architect son, Michael, to be holiday central for Donna, husband Tim, their four kids and seven grandkids – is determinedly modest. There are no en suite bathrooms, separate living rooms, or get-away spaces.