Champagne House on a Beer Budget
Comfortable quarters for a family of five on a postage-stamp lot in Houston, but for only $70 per square foot.
Synopsis: This 2500-sq.-ft. house fits in wonderfully in its upscale neighborhood, but cost considerably less to build. The class and style of this house make it hard to believe that it was built on a penny-pinching budget, but the homeowner reveals his cost-cutting secrets complete with stunning pictures which prove that his money was well spent. Inside, the two sections of this house are joined by a stairwell housing an open-riser steel staircase sandwiched between ground-to-roof commercial glass on the exterior sides—a huge savings vs. conventional windows. A stained concrete floor and exposed beams and trusses on the ground level cut costs significantly, as did the wood-edged slate countertops and granite tiles used in the kitchen and bathroom. Finally, fiber-cement siding and a host of money-saving interior details help the house slide in at just under $70 per sq. ft.
Plenty of people have big families and small bank accounts, yet still yearn for a house that suits their needs. My wife and I were in just that situation when a lot became available in a Houston neighborhood that we liked. The 54-ft. by 75-ft. lot was a bit smaller than the typical 50-ft. by 100-ft. lots in the area, but its corner location made it feel more expansive. Best of all, it was affordable. As an architect, my challenge was to design a house for our family of five that blended with the neighborhood’s old bungalows and new town homes while staying within a modest budget.
A penny-pinching floor plan
We started with an economical layout of two different-size rectangular masses. The relationship of the rectangles creates a courtyard facing the street, adding a friendly connection to the sidewalk. While cars enter the garage from an alley on its east side, an overhead door on the garage’s…