Tag Archives: Floor plan

Contemporary European House Plans

The World At Home

Our collection of plans by invited designers from around the globe is growing. The latest international members include Italian architect Lucia Strona and Lithuanian architect Skirmantas Slamas. Lucia’s small modern 1,636 sq. ft.,

house, Plan 542-2,  above, emphasizes outdoor connections. At the center of the 2 bedroom 2 bath home is the living-dining area, adjacent to the

generous sheltered patio, which functions as an entertaining space. In Plan 542-3, below –  with 3 bedrooms 3.5 baths in  1,989 sq. ft. — she uses

geometry to break up the box: the living room and bedrooms occupy a

long rectangle that intersects with a square containing the kitchen-dining area. Each geometric unit distorts and expands the other, which produces distinctive overlapping spaces such as the cozy corner sitting area in the living room

and the trapezoidal bathroom on the second floor. Lucia specializes in green design, paying particular attention to a house’s orientation on the site and the use of eco-friendly materials. She’s also an expert in historic preservation and

recently completed the restoration of this 16th century stone castle (now that ‘s a hefty barrel vault!).

Skirmantas Slamas has focused on urban design, as with this compact row

house complex Plan 538-1, below (each unit is 1,000 sq. ft.). The living-dining

area opens to a rear terrace, allowing the house to expand in good weather. If the garage is not needed it’s possible to combine it with the living area.

Skirmantas has also worked outside the box, with distinctive vacation houses

inspired by nautical design. Benvenuti Lucia; and Pasveikinti Skirmantas! To keep “traveling” and see plans from Australia, Brazil, Estonia, India, and Ireland as well as Italy and Lithuania, browse our entire Signature Studio.

Small Home Survey Results

Less Is Not Little

Last week I was on a panel about small home design at the Builder Show in Orlando organized by Gale Steves, author of Right-Sizing Your Home and former editor-in-chief of Home magazine. I talked about how our understanding of what is small — and what a small house should contain — has changed, from Gothic Revival cottages of the 19th century — like the

one in Eldon, Iowa (photo courtesy State Historical Society of Iowa) made famous by the painter Grant Wood — when clients had pitchforks and a small

house meant two or maybe three bed chambers and no bathroom in well under 1,000 square feet (painting image courtesy Art Institute of Chicago) to Craftsman style bungalows of the early 1900s, when middle class commuter suburbs burgeoned and pitchforks gave way to briefcases, and one bathroom per house became the general rule. Larger small houses of the 1920s might have had three or four bedrooms but only one bathroom and perhaps a powder room in roughly 1,600 sq. ft. A profusion of plan books like

this one by Los Angeles architect Paul Williams targeting the small home appeared right after World War II. In the early 1950s popular designer/developer Cliff May compressed the sprawling ranch house concept into his Low-Cost Ranch House idea, which was typically 3 bedrooms and 2

bathrooms in 1,675 sq. ft. See how the carport storage wall and the planter define the entry, and how living room and breakfast area open to the courtyard. The galley kitchen is still somewhat removed from the main living space but opens easily to the breakfast area. The master bath is minimal, with just one vanity. The design was simple, contemporary, and incorporated outdoor space to create a feeling of spaciousness. These and similar modern ranch house plans took off, helping to shape post war suburban America. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, rising land costs and higher expectations – i.e. more bathrooms, double vanities, three car garages — led to smaller lot sizes and the need to maximize space by building two story plans packed with amenities. A burgeoning interest in luxury amenities, fueled by expanding credit, led to the over-built McMansion phenomenon we all know. Lots shrank and houses grew. According to census data the average American home grew from 1,660 sq. ft. in 1973 to 2,392 sq. ft. in 2010.

We surveyed a targeted group of our customers earlier this year and asked what they considered small. More than 1,000 prospective plan purchasers responded. Seventy percent of them defined small as 2,000 sq. ft. or less.

They want their largest spaces to be the Great Room, Kitchen, and Master Bedroom. The Dining Room is essentially extinct as a separate room. Most respondents feel they can minimize space in Other Bedrooms and Baths.

Other spaces that are important to them are Useable Rear Porches or Decks, Laundry/Mudrooms, Open Floor Plans, and Energy Efficiency. Surprisingly, nearly half are interested in One-Story Plans.

So, have we come very far from the early 1950s, when industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames first put into practice their famous phrase “to make the best for the most for the least” ? Yes, I think so. Because we are re-appreciating  and re-learning that concept. Today’s small house has improved. It’s a little larger but also more flexible, energy-efficient, and comfortable, like Plan 537-3

by Concept Home, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in 1,636 sq. ft. But now the pitchfork and the briefcase are accompanied by an i-Pad!

One last note: real estate columnist Katherine Salant reported on the panel  in The Washington Post. I hope you can check it out.