By Donna Peak
The “tiny house” movement is everywhere. You can’t turn on a home-improvement channel without stumbling across a show featuring folks designing a “dream home” that’s 200 square feet and costs less to build than the price tag of most cars.
It’s an enticing notion, but is this kind of extreme minimalism realistic for the long haul? Probably not.
Actually, the idea of diminutive, efficiently designed homes is far from new. Log home enthusiasts have proclaimed their love of small-house living for centuries, but we have more practical, dare we say livable, expectations – not to mention sound approaches to accomplishing our goals.
Four log home experts from across the United States weigh in with their seven best ideas for designing a home that will let you live large in a small space.
“The first step to successfully designing any home (but that’s vital to small home design) is to assess what you can and cannot live without,” says Lynn Gastineau, founder of Gastineau Log Homes in New Bloomfield, Missouri.
Lynn should know – in the past 40 years, her company has built homes of every shape and size, including a line of 400-square-foot-and-under, full-log houses called “Cabins 2 Go.”
Matt Franklin, a licensed architect for Boise, Idaho-based M.T.N Design, offers the same advice.
“Ask yourself what you really need in terms of space and amenities,” he says. “For example, giving the toilet its own room within the bathroom is popular for obvious reasons, but building codes require minimum clearances between the fixture and walls. This, plus the framing, adds square footage to a bathroom. If the toilet is out in the open, you can save that space.”
Eliminating the bathtub is another big idea when building small.
“I was at a tradeshow and saw a sign that read ‘Tubs are Dead,’” says Jeremy Bertrand, the Outside Sales Manager for Log Homes of America in Jefferson, North Carolina. “Of course, there are people who prefer a bath; but if you’re a shower person, you can save a lot of space by leaving the tub out.”
Jeremy estimates that by forgoing a standard tub, you can reclaim about 12 square feet to apply to something you would use, like a double-sink vanity or a good-sized linen closet.
Over-designing is a common pitfall during the home design process. How many bedrooms and baths do you really need? Is a home office absolutely necessary? If you have frequent overnight company, a dedicated bedroom and bath may make sense.
Likewise, if you work from home full time, you’ll probably want a dedicated office. However, if guests are sporadic and you only need a computer to shop online or monitor your Fantasy team, you can probably combine these functions into one room and opt for a powder room or a compact three-piece bath. And it’s less to clean.
Formal entries and hallways are dead space. To make the most of every inch of your small home, take them out of the picture. “Instead of halls, arrange an open layout that circulates, making it easy and logical to get from one room to another. And keep your floor plan simple overall,” Matt advises.
Sometimes hallways are necessary. In that case, design them to be multifunctional. “We built a home for a client who needed space for a desk but didn’t want a full home office,” Jeremy explains, “so we designed the end of the hallway to accommodate his desk. The area is compact but efficient.”
Kitchen pantries are another amenity you may want to reconsider if you’re building small. “Actually, there’s an emerging trend afoot to do away with walk-in pantries and go back to cabinet pantries,” Matt says. You might spend a little more money on cabinetry, but you can increase your kitchen’s workable square footage substantially.