Building a House with Minimal Space

Building a house from the ground up can be a difficult but extremely rewarding task. Having the ability to design everything to your exact specifications is one of the biggest draws for most people when deciding to build or not. However, sometimes design plans are hindered by a lack of space to work with. When building on a small plot of land it’s difficult to ensure that you are getting the most out of your home and your property. That’s why we’ve reached out to the experts in home design from Sacramento to New York to provide you with ways to optimize the design and layout of your home when working with limited space.

Have a project program at the ready

The Project Program is the heart of every design, and all the more critical for projects with a limited lot size. The project program is simply a list of wants, needs and priorities; a tailored road map for the project and design solution. An efficient and well-vetted program will allow for all the essential design elements to be captured while weeding-out the non-essential. You can also combine circulation paths wherever possible to reduce wasted space. Circulation is necessary in every space to get from one area to another and can affect usable living areas if not carefully considered in the overall design solution. Employing Open living and Flexible living plans are good ways to reduce circulation paths. – Carlos Architects

Build vertical

As an architecture firm with many mountain home designs, we are accustomed to designing on lots with limited buildable space due to the topography. We excel at creating unique home designs that maximize the vertical space with window compositions and different floor level heights, accompanied by natural light and shadow. Vertical designs allow for many different viewpoints at different heights and can also be a great way to economize on construction costs with stacking, thus reducing the building footprint. – Centre Sky Architecture

Design a home that’s harmonious with the land

The key to designing a house on a restrictive plot of land is to take the time to work out creative designs that are complementary and in harmony with the site. If the lot is narrow, you might want to focus on vertical space – higher ceilings that utilize hanging or high-mounted elements such as cabinets that extend up – making the room feel larger and making the most of all storage possibilities.  Another approach is to focus on connecting the interior of the home to well-thought-out outdoor spaces to extend livable space outside the home’s footprint.  Lastly, light-toned rooms that are filled with daylight have a calm and more spacious feeling.  – Keri Murray Architecture

Emphasize fluidity between indoor and outdoor

To optimize space one of the best design strategies is to create indoor/outdoor spaces that expand the usable area with areas like courtyards, patios, and decks.  Another key approach is to limit the number of internal walls to create a wide-open space that has an open feel optimally directly connected to the outdoors.  Using a lot of glass strategically placed to focus views creates abundant natural light and makes constrained spaces feel larger and more open. – Re- Architecture

Having worked in Venice and other locations with small challenging lots for the last 37 years,  I have found creative ways to maximize the sense of space within a limited space. Blur the defined boundaries of interior and exterior spaces to bring the exterior inside and the exterior out to maximize space. Using the same materials on the ground plane both in and out is one way to expand limited interior space. I tend to prefer higher volumes of space if you are confined with limited space in the floor plan and to maximize natural light to help spaces feel lighter and larger. – David Hertz Architects

Design with dual-purpose in mind

In order to make the most of a small space, first, adopt a loose fit for the program by creating flexible spaces with openness and connectivity between them and allow functions to overlap between one space and another. Second, embrace the site by strategically opening up to the outdoors with the careful placement of doors and windows, which can perceptually increase the size of a space. Third, consolidate circulation and back-of-house spaces to minimize or eliminate corridors and carefully integrate stairs, bathrooms, and storage. – MF Architecture

Prioritize open but dedicated spaces

Many people think that opening up all of our spaces is a way to make limited space feel more unlimited. However, when we do that, it converts what might have been multiple rooms into one large room. This reduces the sense of separateness that we often seek in spaces that differ from one another in use and activity. More times than not, we end up continuing to create even more spaces that are large and open, connected to other spaces that are large and open, to compensate for the sense of separateness that we lost when opening everything up in the first place. Our way of combating that is to open things up mostly but not all the way, thereby creating open but distinct spaces wherein distinct activities can happen. The end result combines the benefits of seeing activities sometimes two or even three zones away while maintaining a sense of separateness where we happen to be sitting. In this way, we avoid needing to build more than the limits with which we are living. – Webber + Studio

Get creative with storage

When building for maximum efficiency on a small lot, be aware of every little space-saving technique. Use space under stairs for a powder room or pantry, or don’t have a room dedicated to a pantry at all and use cabinetry for a pantry. Tailor your inside spaces to the furniture you have or plan to use so not a single square inch of space is wasted. Use your outdoor spaces as outdoor rooms to further minimize the living, dining or kitchen. – Element 5 Architecture

Let there be light

Maximize light, not only with more windows but also incorporate light colors and materials throughout your home; it will make everything feel bigger and more spacious. Lighter, brighter hues and glass-based tiles are more reflective, which can make your space appear open and airy, as opposed to dark colors that

tend to absorb natural light. – Roomored

Avoid basements

Where possible, avoid basements. Homes with no basements aid a better quality of life and help you stay connected with the outdoors. Also, remember to research the local zoning laws on how to maximize your yard space or increase the height of the structure beyond what is allowed. – PMPC Architects

Get everyone involved

To start, determine WHO is making decisions and be consistent about it. If you and your spouse are making decisions, great. If you, your spouse, and your soon to be live-in-parents are making decisions, fantastic. Just decide and consistently have everyone involved start to finish. This will avoid expensive rounds of revisiting things already cut from the project scope. For more information, you can also access my book and video to help homeowners prepare for their construction projects here. – Wascha Studios

Know Thyself: Tell your Architect how you spend your time, what are your rituals, who you hang-out with. Every space needs a purpose. If you don’t use a dining room, don’t have one.  But will your living room area be large enough if you wanted to set up a temporary table? Another thing to consider is where windows will be located. Sometimes that big window is great to extend your space, but be sure to keep privacy in mind. Will you need to cover it with window treatments, or how will that window get cleaned? We like to locate windows where they can expand the indoor to the outdoors, and yet provide privacy. – TAC Studios 

 Originally published on Redfin

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