Designing Small Houses

When it comes to architecture, the size of a project doesn't determine its significance. Some of the most ingenious and inspiring architectural designs can be found in small residential spaces. Architects often face unique challenges when working on compact projects, such as small homes, small apartments, or cosy studios. Through clever space utilisation, natural light, open floor plans, and innovative storage, architects make the most of limited square meterage.


The Art of Space Utilisation

The key to any successful small residential design is efficient space utilisation and planning. This principle is exemplified in the Warrander Studio project. Nestled in Governors Bay, New Zealand, this small home was designed to maximise every square metre. With an internal usable floor area of 65 square metres, the home fits two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an efficient yet comfortable open-plan living space. The use of adjoining decks helps expand the space. The result is a home that feels open, welcoming and connected to its surrounding landscape.


Harnessing Natural Light

Makers recognise the importance of natural light and strive to bring it into the smallest of residential spaces. Take, for example, the Akaroa Bach project, a charming bach nestled in the Manuka bush on the Bank Peninsula. Here Makers used windows and openings to enhance the atmosphere of the home. Openings are strategically placed in the design based on the unique qualities of the site in order to maximise sun exposure and frame surrounding views.

A repeating feature seen in the Akaroa Bach, and many Makers projects, is the use of Polycarbonate, a transparent, blurred material that allows a filtered light into the interior spaces. Perfect for spaces that may need privacy, like bathrooms, but also an excellent material for creating a soft and inviting light in the interior spaces of a home.


The Versatility of Open Floor Plans

Open floor plans are a common feature in small residential designs. This design approach not only makes the space appear larger but also fosters a sense of connectivity and flexibility in how the space is used. In the case of Rolleston Street, a 90 square metre proposal for a small Wellington site, Makers imagined a compact living area into a multifunctional space. By merging the kitchen, dining, and living areas into one open layout, residents enjoy both the convenience of modern living and the illusion of a larger space. The living space is situated around an open light well that connects the two floors and allows natural light throughout the home, allowing the open floor plan of the living space to feel lighter, brighter and more comfortable.


Sustainability in Small Projects

Architects consider eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient appliances, and passive heating and cooling strategies to reduce the environmental footprint of the space. In the case of Akaroa Bach,  and Warrander Studio, CLT mass timber construction was used for its accuracy, efficiency and sustainable qualities to lock carbon in. The result is not only an aesthetically pleasing design but also a low-impact, environmentally conscious retreat.

In the realm of small-scale architecture residential spaces like Warrander Studio, Akaroa Bach, and Rolleston Street, showcase that size is no limitation. By considering space utilisation, storage, natural light, versatility and sustainability a well-designed and functional home is possible on even the trickiest site.

Ingenious Storage Solutions

In the Warrander studio, the 65 square metre floor plan meant storage and space had to be maximised. An example of this is the clever use of drawers hidden in the timber stairwell connecting the two floors. Storage spaces and joinery should be beautiful too, seen celebrated in the bedrooms of the Beach Forest Home with clean cabinetry and exposed shelving created by Makers Fabrication. Clever and well-designed storage options are key to an efficient and beautiful small home. At Makers, we design and build these clever solutions in conjunction with Makers Fabrication.