Guest Architect Steve Bowker is principal at OAG Architects in Benicia, Calif. sbowker@oagarchitects.com

Photos: Courtesy OAG Architects

Guest Architect Steve Bowker is principal at OAG Architects in Benicia, Calif. sbowker@oagarchitects.com

Designing production homes once meant cramming as many rooms as possible into a given footprint. But this I-have-more-rooms-than-you approach didn’t really consider how people live. It locked you into having to design both living and dining rooms, and eventually, it gave birth to the open plan. Two-story homes, with their natural separation of function, benefitted. But smaller single-story houses suffered. They offered more space for gathering areas, but circulation zones were cramped or undefined. Master bedrooms were set too close to shared space. Living/dining, set at the front of the house, became a pass-through zone, not an inviting hangout. The open plan became a bit too open for many modest production homes. 

 

 

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Photos: OAG Architects

Bound by Convention Skimping on circulation space makes for a house that feels cramped.

To make a smaller one-story home live large, we’ve made several tweaks without increasing square footage. We’ve designed a great room with open plan expansiveness and clearly defined zones. Each space is large enough to function on its own and also flows with the other rooms. The den is positioned to open to the rest of the house, yet can be closed off so kids can be loud, mom can work, the baby can sleep, or weekend guests can take a nap.

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Photos: OAG Architects

Open to Change Within the same footprint as before, a second foyer, defined zones, and a flex room help a small house live larger.

A defined front foyer promotes a sense of entry. We’ve included a front entry, but we’ve also designed a second foyer. This makes several improvements. It separates the great room from the circulation paths of the house but also provides space for traffic to converge. This, in turn, encourages chance encounters and quality conversation—what a family home is all about. The new, reasonably sized house can expand or shrink, evolving along with the homeowner’s life. It’s a home that’s good to start in and good to stay in.