Plans for small houses are in the minority on the house plan market. There are so many house plans out there that you could go cross-eyed looking through all the websites and plan books. Fortunately, plans for smaller houses tend to be simpler with less complex floor plan designs, wall placement, and roof framing. This doesn’t mean to say that a small house can’t be rich in architectural detail, but it’s certainly more challenging to create one when you have less space to work with.
It seems that the general consensus among sellers of plans for small houses is that a small house is something 2,000 square feet or less. Plans that are under 1,000 square feet are pretty infrequent just because the smaller your house gets the less options you have for architectural adventure. In my mind a small house is closer to the 1,000 s.f. end of the continuum, but in the end it’s all a matter or perspective. Try to base it on what your needs are, more so than your wants.
When looking at plans for small houses Tim Carter, from AskTheBuilder.com, suggests taking into consideration 2 main issues. First, how much stuff do you have right now and plan to take with you into your new small house? Second, keeping in mind how easily the details of a house will be to manage as you age. These are actually great suggestions for any size house.
When keeping in mind designs for aging folks, there are certain accessibility issues that should be addressed. This includes considering one-story designs with less stairs (or even no stairs for future wheelchair access), wider 48-inch doorways, more floor space in one of the bathrooms to accommodate caregiver assistance, door levers instead of door knobs for arthritic hands, and low maintenance materials that don’t require regular painting or fixing. These can all be factored into your plan for a small house.
As for the issue of “stuff”… all I’d suggest is to severely question how much of it do you really need. I admit, it can be fun to go shopping or flip through catalogs and acquire stuff. There’s something that must satisfy our survival inclinations to want to amass a bunch of things. This does seem logical, but to a point. At a certain point having things goes from being fun to being a burden. And, worse case scenario, your extra stuff is costing you dearly to store it. Witness the plethora of self-storage units across the country.
In the end plans for small houses really aren’t that hard to find, you just won’t have a whole lot to pick from compared to “standard”, or the ubiquitous “McMansion”, kinds of home plans. And building a scale model off your intended small house plan should be easier, too. Less rooms, less walls, less complicated roof lines. There a lot of things to like about smaller homes.
On-line Resources for Small House Plans
Here are some great on-line resources I’ve found so far for plans for small houses:
On the larger end of plans for small houses you’ll find Donald Gardner Architects to have a very large selection. At a glance the facades on these plans seem like they have the kind of architectural detail that would almost require a professional builder. So if you’re looking for a DIY type of small house plan then these folks might not have something usable for you — of course depending on your experience. There are a couple hundred plans to browse through here.
CountryPlans.com, by John Raabe, is probably the best on-line resource for the do-it-yourself small home builder. The 9 small house plans offered on his site are very basic and generally very flexible as to modifications and additions. The plans come with several different foundation options to work with different soil, building code, and climate variations. For serious DIY stop here first to check out the plans for small houses.
TheHouseDesigners.com offers a wide range of square footage small house plans. They start off by saying anything under 2000 square feet is generally considered a “small house”. At a glance their plans seems to be better suited to an owner-builder type — they’re generally not as complex as the ones at Donald Gardner. The House Designers have several plans for small houses that are in the 500 to 1000 square foot range. Most are in the 1000 to 1500 SF range. Worth a look.
If you’re looking for tiny tiny house plans make sure to check out Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, run by Jay Shafer. They can also build those plans for you on a portable double-axle trailer so you can take your abode on the road. Living in one of these tiny houses isn’t for the faint of heart — I’m not sure if I could do it. Jay and his company offer a visionary approach to affordable and sustainable housing.