NOW Communities’ unique approach to land planning minimizes the use of cars, supports walkable streets, and encourages a sense of community. These “pocket neighborhoods” of dense clusters of cottage-style houses take up less land but require a special approach to siting. Here are some of the methods Dan Gainsboro and Don Powers employ in their projects, including the on-the-boards Emerson Green neighborhood:

1. Nested houses. To ensure residents’ privacy, houses “nest” together with the open side of one house facing the closed, windowless side of the next. 

2. Layered spaces. The careful use of layered public-to-private areas defines personal boundaries, from the open common area to the front porch and into the house. Within the home, the layering continues with active spaces in front and private spaces in back and above.

3. Cars are hidden. Parking areas are placed away from the homes in common areas or alley-loaded garages that are screened from the street.

4. Cottage scale. The houses are one-and-a-half stories to limit their impact on the surrounding neighborhood. “A small house can feel and function large when there is ample light and adequate storage space,” says Gainsboro.

5. Individuality. Because the houses are  close together and similarly designed, NOW Communities makes sure each one is slightly different from its neighbors in style and color. Residents create their own landscaping, which also helps set each unit apart.