PLENTY OF DEVELOPERS TRY TO PRESERVE nature, but not many of them go to the lengths CamWest did with its North Creek community in Bothell, Wash. The builder/developer went with a cluster plan as a way to preserve an impressive 60 percent of the site as protected wetlands. That meant not-so-big houses with garage space for just one car.

Homes like the 1,486-square-foot Leschi model are one reason that North Creek's been an unqualified success. It's got a great plan that's marked by a diagonally positioned open stair, which sets off angled sight lines and expands the home's visual size. An open living room/dining room functions as a great room off the kitchen; nearby is a computer “command center.” A flex room on the main floor serves as a den, home office, or optional third bedroom. The Leschi's exterior elevation combines the Pacific Northwest heritage of cottage architecture with Craftsman detailing; window boxes come standard.

The community's residents, who span a demographic rainbow from first-time buyers to retirees, didn't seem to mind the density of 12 units per acre or those single-car garages. North Creek's 33 houses sold in less than a year, proof positive that small homes can live large.

Award: Grand award for best single-family detached home—under 1,700 square feet (compact lot); Builder/Developer: CamWest Development, Kirkland, Wash., Architect/Land planner: Mithun, Seattle