Small houses with style

flgargoyleApril 1, 2007

We already live in a small house by some standards (1600 sq. ft.), but our next (and probably last) house will be smaller still- around 1200. Since it will be small, and I'm going to build it myself, I am trying to find ideas and plans for stylish smaller homes. There seems to be precious little once you get down to 1200 sq. ft. I've been looking at Craftsman style cottages, and we also toyed with the idea of timberframe. I just read an article about Storybook style that just blew me away, but i think those are TOO 'out there'. So if any of you have ideas, pics, or sources, please share them. I think it would be neat to spend the time and money saved on not building a 2500 sq. ft. 'blah' house and put that effort into something half the size.

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I agree with the "style" approach to small houses, except that our minimum requirement ended up being 1,720 sq ft. My wife is from Lousiana, and she always wanted a Southern States French Colonial cottage look. The "look" itself is common, but we're incorporating maintenance-free materials and components. All the trim and the columns are of fiber cement construction, the porch railings/balutrades will be white vinyl, and the exterior is primarily brick. We're also looking for no-paint vinyl shutters.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 4:56PM
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our last home was 540 square feet!
we've upgraded to a 1700 square feet 4 level split, now that's big to my standards!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 10:59PM
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I found this site to have some neat ideas for small homes with character.

Here is a link that might be useful: Architechtural House Plans

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 8:53AM
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I really like these small home plans.

Here is a link that might be useful: Robinson Plans

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 4:46PM
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The Bungalow Company recently introduced a line of smaller homes (I believe they're all under 2000sf, and some are not much more than 1000), and I like some of the Home Patterns plans as well..

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:30PM
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Just remembered... Southern Living has some very nice smaller homes with a lot of charm, but of course some of them have a sort of regional flavor that might not work for you.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:33PM
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Thanks for all the links! All of those have great possibilities, although The Bungalow Co was shockingly expensive ($5000 for a set of plans?!). A little more info- we are building in rural SC, so anything goes, esp. with a Southern flavor. We have 7 acres, so 'footprint' is not an issue. I noticed many of the Craftsman style are narrow and deep (probably for city lots), but we want wide and shallow because the land slopes, so a very deep house would require too tall a foundation or a lot of excavation, and we have a view of the mountains out back, so we want to have as many rooms as possible facing the view. Ultimately, I may end up with something of my own design, but it's good to look over plans to get ideas. Having grown up in a very original 200+ y/o New England cape, I'm really wanting style after 25 years in FL 'boxes'!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 5:32PM
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Check out BC Mountain Homes Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 5:16PM
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My wife and I are newly weds in our 30's and we wanted our first home to be just the right size. We believe small doesn't have to be boring, so we spent a little more money on the right lot, and splurged a little on the details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our new home build in southwest Florida

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 11:46PM
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That didn't work too well. So I'll try again

Here is a link that might be useful: Our new semi-custom home in Florida

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 12:11AM
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Our ranch, like the others in our neighborhood, started at 38 x 24 (912 sq ft). The major drawback is its narrowness. If it were 2 ft wider, the rooms would be significantly more useful because the hall eats into the space.

We are looking to build another ranch and this time we will make it a bit wider. Thanks for the links to small house plans. I was surprised to learn the average new house size is 2600 sq ft or larger. That was a super luxury house in the 1960s. I think 2000 well-employed sq ft is about as much as we can maintain.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 6:37PM
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I've posted this before but definitely not to be missed in your search for small home plans. I dream about living in one of these homes once I'm an empty nester (many, many years from now, thank goodness ;-)).

Here is a link that might be useful: Ross Chapin plans

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 8:07AM
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Here is our Acadian house we are building. Only 1900 sq. ft., but appears much larger because of the porches. We designed it ourselves.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 11:55PM
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Would I be considered a party pooper if I said that while your house, and Andyk's and others are extremely stylish, very nice looking, I'm beginning to wonder just what's so 'small' about them? 1900 sq' to me may be small if compared to some overblown and/or monster house, but to the majority of people living in all kinds of situations (one-rm flats, older duplexes, etc. or even detached one-family homes built in the 40's, 50's, etc. (1,200 sq' being a good size then) your houses are a pretty darn good size? Or is it just that nowadays anything under 2,000 sq' is considered small?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 4:51AM
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No you are not a "Party Pooper", 1900 sq. ft is huge to me too. I went from 3600 to 2400 to 1700 and now 1100 in the last 10 years. Although this sounds like a lot of moves, there were life changes which evolved. Even 1700 was far too much for me to take care of.

Am not sure if I were still married, that 2,000 would even work comfortably. There are visions of tripping over each other and needs of another which couldn't be possible in my small home of today.
Being able to design and build an 1100 sq. ft would be wonderful as I could change so many wasted spaces. Building a smaller home in my area is not an option, far too many restrictions. Buying a new smaller home means just as many restriction, usually a patio home without a yard.

That said, I think this forum determined a while ago that small was 2,000 (?) or less. It is interesting to see how many have scaled down and their new house designs. Scaling down can be as relevant to those from 3,000 to 2,000, even though this seems larger than life to you and me with our "little" homes. I'd be wandering around trying to figure out where to go in anything larger, although there are many options wished for that are not at hand.

Most of the decorating forums on GW lean towards much larger homes. Some in smaller homes do post there, but you will see a wide range of what is considered small on this forum. Much of the discussion here does lean towards the older/smaller home which poses problems with storage, furniture placement, room locations, etc. So, a mixed "small" bag of less rathe than the bigger norm.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 7:54AM
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These Storybook cottages are very sweet, and the plans start from 500 sq. ft.

Here is a link that might be useful: Storybook Homes

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 1:52PM
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On this forum they define my new house at 1900 sq. ft. small. That's why I posted it here. I now live in 1100 sq. ft. so when I move I'll feel like I'm in a mansion. LOL Of my 1900 sq. ft. though you must keep in mind we went kind of crazy on pantry, laundry room and closet space. So when you factor those in we actually only have 500 sq. ft. of living space. HA! Just kidding, but we did make sure we'll have storage, unlike the house we live in now. We actually may have built the house a little smaller, but the covenent for that subdivision had a minimum sq. ft. for a single story home and we had to abide by that rule. Ours is the smallest on the street, for sure. Most are 2500 - 5000 sq. ft.

I actually saw plans for a house that was a dead ringer for mine on the internet and it was only one bedroom, a large family room, 1 bath and kitchen. So you don't have to build big to get the style you want. I think it was 800 sq. ft.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 2:06PM
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Well, I'm glad you all came in on this because I was beginning to think everyone had just lost perspective in a big way. I'm in the process of going from 2,500 sq' (4 bds & in-law suite) to a little 2-storey place that definitely has some challenges. It's 50+ yrs old, on a little rise in the country (facing a big marshy place across the road that no one can build on (yay!), and while it's recently had complete new htg (hot water baseboard) and elect. systems put in, there's a steep, narrow staircase to go up, no coat closet at all (tho' if I can put up a rack of pegs in the side porch where my dogs will be, and block it off from their muddy big paws, that might work), the 3-up rms and tiny bathroom have only 2 tiny closets between them, tho' there's a nice big linen one top of the staircase, but no real hallway to speak off, and the heaters all over make furniture arranging a challenge. But I can't wait to get in there anyhow and have some fun! There is a little 'laundry' rm with a W&D, and my treadmill fits in too, plus I'm thinking of putting in just a small twalette in the corner so I won't have to run upstairs all the time... but right now looking around at all my stuff, though I've done some pre-planning re placement, is scary! Even if my furniture fits on moving day, where will all the boxes go?!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 6:13PM
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I guess size is all relative. At 1873 square feet my living space is not so much bigger than the houses abuting mine. In fact, if it was built 5 years ago it probably would be the same height as the houses on either side of it and look quite a bit smaller. If you look at the pictures of my home it just appears much larger than it actually is because the 1st floor is over 13 feet above sea level. I live about 100 yards from Mangrove trees along the Gulf of Mexico. Per 2003 new Florida codes my home had to built to certain standards for hurricane protection including an elevated subfloor. Basically the house had to be built to withstand 125-130 mph winds at all points and accept a storm surge of 13 feet. (11 feet being the highest recorded in 1921 in this area of Florida). It just so happens that this area of Florida has not been hit by a major storm since the early 1900's, but you never know living down here. Most of the cost of my home went into it meeting code. All the upgrades I'll be paying for myself. The internet is a wonderful tool for new home builders :).

I haven't had a chance to update my site as my camera is broke, good thing anyway at this point cause I'm changing exterior colors as we speak. Didn't think it blended well with the neighborhood, so my wife and I thought it would be best if changed colors and while at it upgrade to California Paints flat velvet. "They" say it will last for 9 years, I'd be happy with 6 in this sun. Hopefully I'll have some new pics up soon. They are putting in the tile now, the interior is all painted, cabinets are up- lots going on right now. Its been crazy.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 1:38AM
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Sounds like fun! I also suppose that climates can make a difference - I'm way up in the cold north, and houses here are not built to take advantage of indoor-outdoor areas the same way yours are I imagine, so except for summer use decks, we need to live inside most of the time, plus allow for optional fireplaces, wood stove supplementary htg sometimes, furnace rooms, attics, etc. BTW, anytime you want to get rid of some mangroves, let me know - I'm a bonsai nut and would love a shot at growing some, though they'd be tiny, kept under artificial light and humidity!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 5:12AM
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Right now Hubby and I are living in a 1100 sq ft house we built ourselves in 1976-78. We are moving into our huge house that we are building (again ourselves) of 1600 sq ft. J/K not huge, but this one is to small we fall over each other. Hard to imagine we raised 3 kids in this house.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 3:42PM
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You know, it's letters like yours (Cyn) that give me hope - I keep telling myself it'll be big enough and I'll manage, but sometimes it's hard to believe and I can only imagine that you must be little people (as compared to my huge 5'5" :-) to have managed with 3 kids!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 6:38AM
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flgargoyle: If you're looking for long and shallow, it's going to be hard to find nowadays since lots are more often narrow. We were looking for the same and I finally found the easiest thing to do is to look on the plan websites that let you search by dimension. You can set a minimum and maximum width and depth. So, just doodle out a layout and get some dimensions. Remember that the exterior design features can be changed and usually the foundation can be also, so just look at compatible layouts to get your view.

I also bought some OLD ranch style plan books, used ones through because that's the best source for long and shallow. Again, the facade can be changed to update it.

In our neighborhood I just saw a very long shallow brick ranch get remodelled to a craftsman look and it's smashing. Unbelievable restyling with no structural change and appears to be a small cash outlay.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 5:56AM
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My neighbors next door live in basically the same house as mine, 1100 sq. feet and there are 4 adults living there, 5 when dad comes to visit on weekends. The bedrooms are like match boxes. I don't know how they manage as DH and I are cramped with our 4 legged kids in our house. I think what cramped out house was when we acquired 2 large dogs and quite a few cats (we do rescue work) and then turned one bedroom into an office. Definitely not enough storage. Our new home will have 1900 sq. ft. and I think 800 of it is storage. LOL We are sick of not having places to put things away where they should be.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 4:41PM
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I'm pretty much committed to designing my own house now, since my needs are so specific. I've zeroed in on a good size kitchen, great room, and master BR across the back, with a second bedroom and the master bath and closet across the front. The great room runs all the way from front to back. The footprint is about 28'X48', but we will have a full and usable basement, so it's really not that small. However, all of the living needs will be on the main floor, and there will be no heat or A/C in the basement- I don't think it will need it. Where we are building, there is NO plans review; I don't even need blueprints, as long as everything is 'code'. As for style, I'm looking more and more at cottages and bungalows, with decorative rafter tails and braces. I'd like to build a really stunning front door, and incorporate doorway transoms both inside and out. I was all set to go timber frame on the great room, but am having trouble getting that look to jive with the cottage style we love. That, and timber frame is very expensive! I'm a skilled woodworker, so I can make interesting moldings and details for very little cost. I'll post a floor plan one of these days....

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 4:57PM
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here is my 1920's

Here is a link that might be useful: my house

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 7:57PM
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Your house certainly has style! Now- to figure out how to build a new house so it looks like it's been around since 1920- or longer!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 4:44PM
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Architorture-I love your home! It really is like living in a nursery rhyme.

I hope it's ok, but by your standards, my new home is not considered small(2500 sf-ducking verbal sticks and stones now!), but I just love visiting over here because you all have such original ideas for using your space! And smaller homes allow you to have so much more detail.

You guys are all so creative!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 11:45PM
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I'll add mine @ 1176sf. Tom

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 11:32PM
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skagit, very pretty house.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 11:16PM
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Pikers all!

Toronto's Smallest Home: 300 sf @ $179,900Photo:TREB

Newly renovated 90-year old mini-home. Last sale: $135,000 April '07. The lot was originally intended as a driveway. But when the city failed to put in a curb cut, the builder put up this home in 1912 and moved in with his wife for 20 years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toronto's Tiniest Home

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 6:19PM
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Lucy said:
"Would I be considered a party pooper if I said that while your house, and Andyk's and others are extremely stylish, very nice looking, I'm beginning to wonder just what's so 'small' about them?"

In all honesty, I would have to say yes. The header over the forum reads, "Living in a ranch, bungalow or cottage under 2000 square feet?" Complaining because some posters have homes that fall into the top of the range is being a party-pooper.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 2:14PM
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Im 5'3 hubby is 5'9 kids were all over 5'7. My son is buying this house from us when we move into the new house. They have kids so it will be interesting. LOL

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 9:58PM
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If you like colonial style, do a search on "Royal Barry Wills," a preeminent Boston-area architect of the first half of the 20th century. His small house plans were inspired. He published several books, which can be found from time to time on Ebay.

Also check out Bow House, also in the Boston area. Their half and three-quarter Cape plans and kits are fantastic, starting at 800 sf.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bow House

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 9:39PM
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slc2053 you have a plan yet? I am sooooo interested because I read your posts and feel as though I wrote them! We want exactly the same thing in a home and are tired of the house plans that are deep rather than long and especially plans that don't put the great room at the back of the house...can't wait to see your plans and progress...

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 1:22PM
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skagit and brutuses...any floor plans you can post? Great homes...!!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 1:41PM
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slc2053- I'm only exaggerating slightly when I say that the paper I've wasted on drawings would probably be enough wood to build a house! We're trying to keep the footprint small to keep costs down, yet we want everything on one level. My current thinking is to use the walk-out basement as living space, since I can have windows all along the back, and even a little bit on the sides. My friend's similar basement in our area stayed at 74 degrees (without A/C) through a very hot summer, so I'm thinking of a big master suite in the basement. Unconventional, I know, but very practical if we can control the humidity. I would have the living space on the main floor, with one spare bedroom that would probably double as a den most of the time. The single toughest thing I have come up against so far is fitting in the stairs to the basement- they are always in the way! I even toyed with building a bump-out off the back of the house to enclose the stairs- an idea I haven't totally abandoned. As for style- that will come once I get a good floor plan. I have found that you can design a very stylish house, yet with a simple shape and roofline. We are leaning towards 'cottage style', since it fits our lifestyle and furnishings. You can get away with all sorts of design oddities that would never work on other houses, although I don't want to get too weird. Coincidently, the excavator began clearing a driveway yesterday, so things are moving forward! Actual construction is probably 2 years away, though :(

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 6:59PM
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skagit_goat_man_ i love your house. any chance of sharing some floor plans?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 8:46PM
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If you want some creative inspiration, check out this site. There are some really nice smaller homes in the starter and narrow lot category.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 11:48AM
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