24 inspiring small homes

Great lessons in style and comfort from a tiny cottage, vintage trailer, bungalow, and other small homes

Expanded cottage: Living room

Expanded cottage: Living room

Mark Egerstrom and Brian Grosdidier doubled the living space of their 600-square-foot cottage by appyling a few smart design tricks. They opened up the formerly choppy floor plan, and added a loft room, a roof deck “backyard,” and glass walls in the living room, pictured here. Transparent walls seem to bring the plants into the room itself. It’s a twist on the usual L.A. take on outdoor living: sliding doors opening onto patios. “We’re tricking the eye into feeling there’s more space than there is,” says Mark.

Expanded cottage: Rooftop deck

Expanded cottage: Rooftop deck

When you can't expand out, go vertical. “We’ve got a backyard—it’s just on the roof,” says Mark. “It feels like a treehouse up there above it all.”

See more of this remodeled cottage

One Window House: Exterior

One Window House: Exterior

The house that Deborah and Olivier built in Venice, CA, is a monument to modern (and modernist) notions of resourcefulness. By going up, not out, the One Window House—so called because all but one of its “windows” are actually glass walls or sliding doors—makes the most of its small (680 square feet) footprint. Three stories give the house a total size of 1,500 square feet, despite its relatively small footprint. And Deborah and Olivier’s design philosophy can also be seen in how they refine rough-hewn (and economical) materials and use them in interesting new ways, extend the size of rooms by connecting them to the outdoors. For example, from the street, you can see the opaque panel that lets light into the staircase.

One Window House: Kitchen

One Window House: Kitchen

Olivier and Deborah see it as part of their design mission to take things—especially construction materials—out of their familiar contexts, reworking them so they can be experienced afresh.  For instance, they decided to use oriented strand board, or flakeboard, for the kitchen cabinetry and a few other surfaces in the house. Flakeboard cabinetry and polished concrete flooring suit the indoor/outdoor theme running through the house.

See more of the One Window House


Live-work cottage: Living room

Live-work cottage: Living room

Makoto Mizutani and Ben Luddy have turned their house into an R&D lab for living. Every piece of furniture they create for their design company, Scout Regalia, and for their 650-square-foot home (and office) is a product of necessity. In the multifunction main room, a midcentury Hans Wegner daybed does triple duty: sofa, guest bed for visitors, and “conference room” seating for business meetings.

Live-work cottage: Bedroom

Live-work cottage: Bedroom

In a small home, storage space is on short supply, so Makoto and Ben employ savvy tricks to work it into their furniture design. This bed's backrest slides up to reveal storage. On the headboard, you push in on a hinged panel to access a similar space.

See more of this versatile live-work cottage

Stylish trailer: Vacation home on wheels

Stylish trailer: Vacation home on wheels

A couple of years ago at a fly-fishing show, Christa Johnston saw a display of vintage trailers. Taken with the idea of a wilderness vacation that wouldn’t involve a tent, Christa fell for the iconic Serro Scotty trailer—a brand once common on Western highways. She and her husband Kurt found a not-to-expensive model that wouldn't require too much remodeling and transformed it into the rolling getaway of their dreams.

Stylish trailer: Interior

Stylish trailer: Interior

After eight weeks of work, the 100-square-foot trailer was ready for their first trip, 10 low-tech days in the Grand Tetons that proved their purchase was right for them. “We can really unplug and focus on us,” says Kurt. Christa agrees: “Being out there clears your mind, clears the clutter. When my out-of-office message says I’ll have no access to phone or email, it’s true.”

See more of this stylish trailer vacation home

Creative country house: Dining room

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain

Creative country house: Dining room

Josh Heiser and Steve Burns decided to make a change from rainy Seattle and headed to Sonoma, CA. The prime getaway spot is justly famous for its enviable climate, dreamy grapevines-for-miles landscape, and notable wineries and restaurants. How, then, to keep that away-from-it-all vibe in a home that has to function as, well, a home? They remodeled a 1,100-square-footer, making the most of the space with a few clever strategies. Furniture groupings, like this casual dining setup in a windowed corner of the great room, help define discrete living spaces.


Creative country house: Bathroom

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain

Creative country house: Bathroom

Formerly a second bedroom, this bathroom relies on space-saving strategies: antique redwood troughs in lieu of cabinets; a spa-like basket to keep towels handy.

See more of this creative country house update

DIY cabin retreat: Exterior

Photo by Thomas J. Story

DIY cabin retreat: Exterior

Mariah Morrow and Ryan Lingard built their own cozy adventure outpost—just 130 square feet plus a deck—for $57,000, including the land. The cabin is the perfect jumping-off point into the wilderness near Joseph, Oregon.

DIY cabin retreat: Interior

Photo by Thomas J. Story

DIY cabin retreat: Interior

What the couple may not have in square footage, they more than make up for in the spaces beyond the cabin. “There’s no need to drive to a trailhead,” says Mariah, noting that informal paths connect the cabin to moun­tain bike trails and Forest Service hiking trails. “In winter, we ski and snow­shoe,” Ryan says. “It’s peaceful here, and spending time off the grid resets your priorities.”

See more about how to build a DIY cabin

Washington cabin: Kitchen

Dominique Vorillon

Washington cabin: Kitchen

Ray and Mary Johnston's 1,200-square-foot cabin near Twisp, WA is packed with ideas for small-home living. Take the open kitchen: One of the Johnstons' favorite things about it is the appliance-free island they made from a stainless steel and butcher block workspace they bought at a restaurant-supply store and covered on three sides with plywood. It was affordably made, adds much-needed storage space, and acts as a central gathering spot in the house.

Washington cabin: Nook

Dominique Vorillon

Washington cabin: Nook

"In a small space, the most satisfying thing is variety," Mary Johnston says of the built-in bookshelf on the wall above the staircase. The inviting alcove is both a convenient throughway and another place to hang out.

See more of this cabin

Santa Monica cottage: Kitchen

Photography by Lisa Romerein

Santa Monica cottage: Kitchen

Julie Hart's 900-square-foot cottage was billed as a teardown when she bought it. However, instead of starting from scratch, she renovated the home into a bright, airy gem.

In the kitchen, new oversized windows and skylights invite in the sunshine.

See the living room next.

Cottage living room after the renovation

Photography by Lisa Romerein

Santa Monica Cottage: Living room

Hart, an architectural designer, kept most of the walls in the cottage white and added splashes of color with accent pillows, throws, and pottery.

See the rest of this dramatic renovation

Small dining room design

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

San Diego bungalow

Lauren and Eric Wendlandt weren't worried about the tiny size of this San Diego bungalow when they purchased it. Using creative furnishings (this dining room table can extend to seat 10 people) allows them to maximize space.

See the living room next.

Small living room

Photo by Daniel Hennessy

San Diego bungalow: Living room

In the living room, the Wendlandts continue to take advantage of multi-purpose furniture—the window seat stores extra blankets, and the subwoofer doubles as a side table.

See the rest of this 700-square-foot bungalow

Airstream trailer home

Photo by Mark Compton

Remodeled Airstream home

Landscape architect Andreas Stavropoulos lives in a remodeled 1959 Airstream trailer, which he parks behind a Berkeley, CA, co-op. The space is only 15 ft. long and 7 ft. wide, but Stavropoulos makes it work by avoiding unnecessary posessions and utilizing built-in furniture.

See inside the Airstream next.

Airstream interior

Photo by Mark Compton

Airstream home: Bedroom

Stavropoulos makes the most of his limited space by keeping his shirts and jackets hanging on a rail across from the cooktop. His built-in bed is topped with a thick piece of cut-to-fit Memory Foam.

See more of this tiny Airstream home

Los Angeles loft

Photo by Thomas J. Story; styling by Miranda Jones

Creative loft

Kelly LaPlante, a leading Los Angeles-based interior designer, author, television host, and new mother, uses salvaged and thrift store finds to decorate and furnish her Venice loft.

See the dining room next.

The dining and loft space of a Venice, Calfornia home

Photography by Thomas J. Story; styling by Miranda Jones

Creative loft: Dining room

By using spaces for multiple purposes, LaPlante is able to maximize the square footage of her small loft.

The dining space (shown here, below the master bedroom) is also used as a home office.

See the rest of this eco-friendly, creative loft

Best small space glass house

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Glass house

This striking glass house was built of components shipped from all over the country directly to the picturesque site in the Sierra Foothills.

It creates an eye-popping impact with its 1,200 feet.

See inside the award-winning house next.

Interior fireplace

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Glass house: Interior

The Fireorb fireplace frees up floor space, and the spindly tables, chairs, and even kitchen counters help the home feel uncluttered.

After: Small is beautiful

Alex Hayden

Modern remodel

Using clean, simple materials, Kent and Pam Greene were able to update their small, light-filled home on a tiny buudget.

By using bright colors, adding larger windows, and taking down interior walls, they gave the house a feeling of openness.

See the kitchen next.


Modern remodel: Kitchen

In the kitchen, the pair used plywood for their cabinets—another simple, cost-saving decision.

Learn more about this budget-friendly remodel

houseboat deck

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Modern houseboat

Matt and Jennifer Harvey's modern prefab houseboat is only 1,000 square-feet.

When they moved in with their children, Jack and Grace (now 4 and 20 months), in 2009, they made the most of the space by getting rid of unnecessary belongings.

See the roof deck next.

roof deck

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Modern houseboat: Roof top deck

When the weather's warm, the Harveys make the most of their outdoor space by inviting friends over for dinner parties on their rooftop deck.

See a day in the life of a modern prefab houseboat

Lotta Jansdotter Living Room

Thomas J. Story

Stylish apartment

Nearly every space in this 725-square-foot apartment has multiple functions.

With a futon that works as a bed, the living room is easily transformed into a guest bedroom.

Next see the office/dining room.

Lotta Jansdotter Office

Thomas J. Story

Stylish apartment: Office/dining room

During the day, this room is an office space. Laptops get tucked away in the evening, and the desk becomes a dining table.

Get more space-saving ideas from this flexible apartment

Rocio Romero prefab

Thomas J. Story, styling by Miranda Jones

Prefab dream house

Aaron Jones' tiny, one-bedroom home is full of creative ideas for small-space living.

The eco-conscious Rocio Romero prefab house is only 625 square feet.

See the bedroom next.

Prefab bedroom

Thomas J. Story, styling by Miranda Jones

Prefab dream house: Bedroom

Because the house, like a studio apartment, is one big room, Jones uses furniture to divide one space from another. Here, a low chest of drawers and a couch separate the bedroom from the living room.

See how this prefab dream house was built

Classic bungalow, after addition

Lisa Romerein

Sunny bungalow

Gus and Stephanie Koven wanted a way to unite their 1,000-square-foot bungalow to the backyard, so they built a sunny, greenhouse-like addition.

See inside this addition next.

Classic bungalow gets a light-filled addition

Lisa Romerein

Sunny bungalow: Addition

Now sheets of 16-mm. clear polycarbonate open this dark little bungalow to its garden.

Learn everything about this light-filled addition 

Modern prefab home

Photo by Bill Timmerman

Green home

This prefab house is dynamic and livable, honoring Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy while tackling sustainable systems like solar panels and rainwater and gray-water collection.

See the floor plan of this inspirational prefab next.

Modern prefab floor plan

Illustration by Arthur Mount

Green home: Floor plan

The unit, less than 600 square feet, is narrow enough to be transported by road.

Big kitchen

Thomas J. Story

Big kitchen

Christine Nelsen-Thuresson and Johan Thuresson turned three cramped rooms in their tiny home into a large, colorful kitchen with views of their garden.

The cottage itself is less than 700 square feet.

See the dining space next.

Dining room

Thomas J. Story

Big kitchen: Dining room

Eliminating two interior walls brought in tons of light and made room for a dining space.

Learn all about this kitchen remodel

Seattle rooftop house

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

Rooftop apartment

This smart 800-square-foot apartment sits atop a 62,000-square-foot Seattle warehouse, tapping into previously unappreciated views.

“This is just one example of what is possible if we look at these forgotten landscapes as new opportunities,” say the architeccts.

See the view from inside next.

Seattle rooftop home roof and view

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

Rooftop apartment: View

The roof's deep overhang keeps the rooms cool even though the walls are glass.

After: In living color

Jeffrey Becom

Colorful bungalow

When Jeffrey Becom and his partner, Sally Jean Aberg, decided to remodel this 1,000-square-foot bungalow, they chose to use bold colors to enhance its architectural details.

Becom, an artist and photographer, mixed custom paints and stains.

See the living room of this colorful bungalow next.

Inside In Living Color

Colorful bungalow: Living room

In addition to choosing bright, exciting colors, Becom and Aberg also raised the ceilings and opened up several rooms to create a larger living, dining, and office space.

Learn more about this remodel

Small cabin architecture

Simple cabin

The interior of this simple cabin in Durango, Colorado, consists of a sleeping/living room, a simple kitchen, and a bathroom alcove.

modern cottage exterior

 Thomas J. Story

Modern cottage

This modular project from San Francisco-based prefab firm Modern Cabana works as a vacation getaway or backyard guest suite and home office.

See the office space next.

Small office in the Modern Cottage.

Thomas J. Story

Modern cottage: Office

The light and airy desk, made from a repurposed door and a piece of frosted glass, hangs from the ceiling by 3/16-inch cable wire.

See the whole backyard cottage 

After: Bring the outside in

Private deck

A new deck off the back bedrooms helped design team John Jennings and Sasha Tarnopolsky make the most of their 1,100-square-foot home.

The deck, made from Ipe wood, acts as extensions of the living areas, a private outdoor retreat, and a graceful, 3-step transition to the garden.

See more of this small house

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