Plans for Building Small Houses


The wildly popular small house movement is the result of a perfect convergence of a dramatically faltering U.S. economy, and a resurgence of interest in environmental conservation. The interest in small houses, as of late, has been enormous and that interest is largely fueled by a desire to dramatically reduce or completely eliminate a mortgage, while also consuming fewer resources. For the purposes of this article, "small" means well under 1,000 square feet, and, in some cases, well under 500 square feet.

Tumbleweed Houses

  • Jay Shafer is the architect behind the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, and his plans are a masterful blend of art and craft. While those unfamiliar with the tiny house movement may be shocked to see that the range of square footage for the tiny homes runs from 65 to 130 square feet, the interior pictures need to be seen to understand the quality of these homes. Certainly, the smaller models are not meant for a large family; think a single person or a couple for these. But the sheer degree of thought and planning put into every square inch of these homes is truly impressive.

    Because the square footage of the homes fall under anything requiring a permit, there is less regulation involved with building a tiny Tumbleweed Home. It is important to note, however, that in order to build and live in a home of 130 square feet or less, the home has to be built on a trailer, which acts as the foundation, and the means of transport.

    An expensive land purchase can also be avoided, if a Tumbleweed Home owner has family and/or friends with large plots of land on which they will allow the owner to place the house for months or years at a time. These homes have all the basic amenities of a larger home--kitchen area, toilet and shower, living area, comfortable sleeping loft--and are fitted to hook up to a water supply and electricity, in the manner of an RV.

Cusato Cottages

  • Architect Marianne Cusato had initially designed a series of small, efficient cottages as a humane option for the unhealthy FEMA trailers, which were to be foisted upon the victims of Hurricane Katrina as temporary shelter. With the collapse of the economy and a burgeoning interest in downsizing American lifestyles, these cottages became highly sought after as affordable housing all over the country.

    These homes range from 308 to 1,800 square feet, and most have options to easily add on to them as time and money allows. All of the homes designs are open to a number of personal touches that would make the house more individual but the basic look of these houses is casually comfortable, efficient and American traditional.

Ross Chapin Cottages

  • Washington State architect Ross Chapin is an award-winning designer with an eye for detail. The attention he pays to the smaller as well as the larger aesthetic aspect of design is evident. His cottages have gotten a great deal of mainstream press--from The New York Times to Forbes to The Wall Street Journal--and for good reason. These are beautiful little homes, ranging in size from 307 to 1,300 square feet. The small size of these houses makes them efficient to heat and maintain, but details like the woodwork of the trim make the Ross Chapin cottages little works of art.

    All of the cottage plans are under $1,000.

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