I just got back from a trip to San Diego. While there, I visited an Ikea store. WOW! They have some really neat ideas for maximizing small spaces. I had looked online before but it just isn't the same as going into a showroom. The quality appears marginal, veneer over partical board, but it is very affordable and innovative. I would like to see what they would come up with if they designed a house from scratch.
As we drove around San Diego we went through some of the older neighborhoods that were typically smaller, stucco homes with barrel-tile roofs. Very attractive, well kept and probably outrageously priced.
Also on this trip I picked up a copy of Dwell magazine. I had flipped through it before so I am familiar with it. They seem to share a lot of the thoughts shared here about high quality small spaces but their idea of affordable is ludicris for my area. One example was $300,000 for a 1900 square foot (house only, not land) prefab unit. Affordable? Really? It really does dissapoint me that small and affordable is usually cheap and cookie cutter. I wish someone could crack that code. In my area, "affordable" usually translates as vinyl boxes with no curb appeal and in communities that are run-down and trashy in a few short years.
Oh, I almost forgot. The National Kitchen and Bath Association was having a gathering at the Hotel where I stayed. I talked to a few of them and even in the midst of this current "housing crisis", none of them were working on smaller, affordable solutions. They all had wealthy clients willing and able to keep building their McMansions.
Good trip. Gave me lots to think about.