When it comes to luxury, size doesn’t really matter. It’s the little things that count. Case in point: this 894-square-foot “crash pad,” which replaces a 1,400-square-foot dwelling that previously occupied the same .08 acre spot in a neighborhood dating back to the 1880s. It’s an efficient plan predicated on multi-use spaces akin to those seen in small sea-going vessels. And the open, loft-style configuration eliminates unnecessary circulation spaces that eat up precious square footage and result in extra heating and cooling costs.

The key to making it all work, says architect Barry Berkus, was using height and light as a counterbalance to the small footprint. The tidy interiors feel plenty airy, thanks to ceilings stretching 14 feet in the living area, 12 feet in the bedroom, and 10 feet in the kitchen, combined with skylights and north/south glazed openings.

Ceiling-high cabinets in the cooking and sleeping areas maximize storage space and are accessible via a custom-designed (by the architect), sliding ladder chair. Even the outdoor space is multifunctional. Sometimes used as a “car arbor,” it doubles as an entertainment pavilion with track lighting and a sculptural fence.

This home’s tiny size alone is enough to render it sustainable (it doesn’t require much energy to stay running) but it also features recycled countertops, low VOC paints, environmentally rated insulation, Energy Star appliances, and a tankless water heater. As one juror commented, “It’s artful restraint we can all learn from.”

Award: Grand for custom home under 7,500 square feet
Builder: Jack’n Toolbox, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Architect: B3 Architects, a Berkus Design Studio, Santa Barbara
Land planner: Earthform Design, Santa Barbara

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Santa Barbara, CA.