5 Ways to Make A Small House “Bigger”

Real Estate

This 550 SF house in Sagle Idaho feels larger than its’ petite footprint due to the large outdoor space, high ceilings and massive windows. The house was designed by FabCab Architects and built by Selle Valley Construction using timber frame and SIPs.Photo courtesy of FabCab Architects for Prefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

People often build larger houses than they actually need in order to hold all of their “stuff.” The problem with many houses is the accumulation of too much stuff, rather than a lack of space. The artist Hans Hofman once said – “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” In regards to homes, when you rid yourself of all of the excess things, you can enjoy the things that may be stored away or just hidden among the clutter.

There are certain elements that will make that small house more comfortable and feel larger than it is. When downsizing or just seeking to live in a smaller house, there are aspects to consider to make the small house feel bigger.  Some of these elements need to be built in, such as high ceilings, but others can be added, such as storage. 

This very open and airy modular built house in Sauvie Island in OR has soaring ceilings and a wall of windows making it feel bigger than it is. Even with all of the windows it was LEED certified. The house was designed and built by Stillwater Dwellings.Photo courtesy of Stillwater Dwellings for Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid, published by Abrams.

Many people today are opting to build smaller houses because they prefer the smaller price tag that comes with a smaller footprint, along with less maintenance and smaller utility bills. Others choose to live in smaller houses because they are earth conscious and want to limit the footprint they make on the planet. Whatever the reason, these smaller houses are popping up around the country as code compliant houses, accessory dwelling units and tiny houses. People are finding out that having less square footage, doesn’t mean the house will be less comfortable.

Storage was created under and beside the bed in this top floor bedroom of a small house in Westport, CT. Then house was designed by Sellers Lothrop Architects, Bensonwood manufactured the panelized system and The Pratley Company built the house.Photo courtesy of Michael Biondo Photography fo Prefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

One of the most important features any small house requires is lots of storage. Although square footage may be limited, everyone needs a place to put all of their “stuff.” There are many creative ways to include storage in any room. Built-ins can come in a multitude of different ways. Shelving can be added in most any room. Companies such as California Closets design space to provide the maximum amount of storage. For the do-it-“yourselvers” there are components available at places such as IKEA and the Container Store where parts can be bought and easily put together. Kitchens can be designed to also maximize the storage space with cabinets and shelving.

In rental units, furniture can provide needed storage space. Coffee tables are available with openings for storage and hutches and chests, and decorative trunks can all provide storage. Storage units of every type are now available at an affordable rate from wardrobes to shelving units to kitchen and bath storage units.

This component built house in BC, Canada appears much larger than it is – inside and out – due to the abundance of windows, high ceilings and a lack of hallways. The house was designed and built by Lindal Cedar Homes.Photo courtesy of Patrick Barta Photography for Pefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

Light is another essential requirement to make any house feel larger than it is. Natural lighting is the most ideal. Building or choosing a house with good natural lighting has huge benefits – including lower utility bills and comfort. Whether there are a multitude of windows or artificial lights, bright rooms look bigger. Skylights  can also add to the brightness of a room. For very small rooms clerestory windows, which are high up on the wall provide lots of light while not taking up a lot of needed wall space and can provide privacy.

The lights that shine through the wood grid in the ceiling create a very soft and indirect light. The wall of windows and high ceiling are other factors in making this area feel larger than it is. This house in Unity, ME was designed and built by Bensonwood Homes using panelized construction.Photo courtesy of Naomi CO Beale for Prefaabulous + Almost Off the Grid, published by Abrams

High ceilings tend to make any room look larger and more airy. Often architects design houses with cathedral ceilings or just extra high ceilings to counteract the small space of the rooms.

This very open house in Bonsall CA was built using a steel frame and modular construction. The house was designed and manufactured by Connect Homes.  Indoor and outdoor spaces were incorporated with large doors and multiple windows.Photo coutesy of Daniel Hennessey for Prefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

Access to outdoor space can make a house feel much larger than it is. Having large door openings going out to a patio or deck expands the feeling of the interior spaces along with bringing in natural light and ventilation. When doors are open to the outdoor space the rooms feel more expansive than they are. Particularly in warmer locations, the outdoor space can provide dining and sitting space for most of the year, expanding the living areas.

The garage door is a standard unit made for low-overhead installations. Because of southern California’s temperate climate, the garage door can stay open most of the year for ventilation. Glass panels in the door allow the light from the overhead light fixture to shine through.Photo courtesy of Kevin Walsh Photography for Prefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

Hallways waste a lot of space that can be used for the rooms of the house. When building a small house, every inch needs to be used wisely. Well- designed houses can be built to minimize hallways and make the rooms in the house more spacious. Not only does this lack of hallways provide more space for rooms but it avoids wasted energy used to heat and cool areas that are not necessary.

There are no hallways in this small 550 square foot FabCab designed house. All of the space is well used for utilized space. This large barn door to the bedroom also saves space. and opens up the living area.Photo courtesy of FabCab Architects for Prefabulous Small Houses, published by Taunton Press

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