RELAXING at his dining table and sipping green tea on a gray evening in late May, typically soft-spoken designer Matt Kirkpatrick notes—with more than a hint of incredulity—that the average size of a newly built single-family house in the United States in 2009 was 2,438 square feet. “In 1950,” he says, “it was less than a thousand.” Although Kirkpatrick, 31, was born on the cusp of the bigger-is-always-better ...

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