How to Make a Small House Work
With a 960-sq.-ft. footprint, this building’s tall ceilings, interlinked spaces, and long vistas across rooms and the outdoors make this compact home feel expansive.
A few years ago, a team of Oregon designers including Bill Roach, Nir Pearlson, and Roger Ota came together to design a small home for the director of the artists’ retreat Playa at Summer Lake. The team was interested in modular construction, energy and material efficiency, and overall sustainability. The latter led them toward a relatively small footprint by today’s standards. This house has a lot to offer and then be sure to check out Nir’s article, “Small Home Suits Its Site,” in FHB #276.
Match the home to the site. In the context of the vast, flat prairie lands, the small home doesn’t look diminutive at all. Underneath the mountain ridges, however, it may have looked too small had the designers not settled on a long shed roof that mimics the mountains’ slopes.
Make the entrance grand. Small homes can still have big details. Though most of the house is sided with modest corrugated metal, the designers spec’ed vertical cedar boards for siding at the entries. Rusted steel posts and beams support an generous porch at the front door which is also cedar and has the traditional look of strap hinges.
A mudroom is a must have. Useful entries aren’t only a luxury of big homes. Finding a way to sneak in some closets for shoes and coats at the door adds necessary convenience in a small home. Daylight is another important factor. Here, a skylight over the sink brightens an interior space.
Big windows and human scale. On the tall end of the shed roof, big and tall windows offer great views of the prairie range beyond the house. While views can make a small house feel spacious, tall ceilings can also make a room uncomfortable. Here, a band of trim and a shelf wrap the room to create a more human scale and a more cozy space.
Design a space for everything. Furniture can clutter up a small home very quickly, but we still need places to store things. Purposeful built-ins, like this island-end bookshelf, provides specific storage right where it’s needed to keep clutter to a minimum.
Photos by Jeremy Bronson/Bronson Studios.