By Christina B. Farnsworth. Just blocks from a historic small-town main street, the 45 cottage homes on 17.3 acres feel like a fairy tale village. "The original site was run-down, old World War II military housing, but it was just a few blocks from a quaint Norwegian-style, seaside fishing village high on charm with the necessary shops to support pedestrian traffic and commerce," says Judy Curran, marketing coordinator for the builder and developer.

Homes on lots that average only 43 by 50 feet are ringed with picket fences street side. "They gather around courtyards that create the feeling of generous backyards," architect Dick Bruskrud says. Since these backyards are shared, fences are not allowed. Each home's back porch acts like a front porch in terms of interacting with nearby courtyard neighbors. For privacy, vegetation helps screen the view into homes. "The front picket fences give psychological privacy," Bruskrud explains. Wide-open backyards are frequently the setting for croquet or other neighborhood games. In many ways, Poulsbo is more than materials; it is social architecture.

Photo: Scott Photography

Though Poulsbo looks simple, it took great artistry and care to create comfortable, private detached living at 13.6 dua. Many dense, affordable housing projects look cramped, and the homes are stripped down and all look the same. At Poulsbo Place, clustering the homes in a way that shares backyards and expands space belies the high density. Rich use of color and cottage details gives each home its own identity. "And these homes are affordable," Bruskrud says, "selling from $149,000 to $180,000 in a market where house prices are pushing well over $200,000." They pack a lot of living in a modest space--870 to 1,265 square feet--and are attracting young professionals and active retirees. Category: Single-Family Community Design; Entrant/Architect/Land Planner/Landscape Architect: Mithun, Seattle; Builder: SP Poulsbo GPI, Seattle; Developer: Security Properties, Seattle