The Shrinking Lot

Project 1 Potter's Bend
Ladera Ranch, Calif.

Detached cluster houses allowed John Laing Homes to achieve densities of 12 per acre at Potter's Bend. Architect Michael Woodley designed a six-pack of two homes facing the street, two behind them gazing toward each other across a shared roadway, and two in the back that face forward. "We found that our buyers interpret it as living at the end of a cul-de-sac," says Marianne Browne, vice president of sales and marketing for John Laing Homes. "We still provide yards and green space in front, but it's common area."

The lots on the streets read as traditional in size, with the pocket lots tucked behind. Inside, this house's foyer is defined but modestly scaled. The floor plan swings around a central stairwell, where the house opens to a spacious great room and views of the garden. Upstairs, two bedrooms and a bath are stacked over the garage, allowing room for a spacious master suite and an office nook on the rest of the second floor.

This larger home in the cluster features a linear plan attached to the garage, compared with the box plans of the homes behind it that wrap around the garage. "It's a completely different feel, yet all the houses have access to private space," Woodley says. "It fits together like a puzzle."

Project: Potter's Bend, Ladera Ranch, Calif.; Lot sizes: Cluster of six lots averaging 2,800 square feet (the lot size of the house shown is 70 feet wide by 35 feet deep); House sizes: 1,225 to 1,825 square feet (the house shown is 1,636 square feet); Builder/developer: John Laing Homes, Newport Beach, Calif.; Architect: Woodley Architectural Group, Denver

Project 2 Chelsea Estates
Temecula, Calif.

In this upscale market, the strategy was to put a lot of house on a small lot, or, as architect Michael Woodley puts it, "the big house on the not-so-big lot." Although all of the lots in this community were plotted at 45 feet wide, the builder narrowed some of them and made others wider to achieve a lower sales price per square foot. This house is stacked high and fills the entire envelope, but in a way that doesn't kill the facade. The two-and-a-half-story turret creates drama on the elevation while providing a stylish circulation spine that opens the interior from top to bottom. Because the garage is pulled back from the street and is accessed through a side court, its presence is downplayed.

Project: Chelsea Estates, Temecula, Calif.; Lot size: 4,500 square feet (45 feet wide by 100 feet deep); House size: 3,280 square feet; Builder/developer: Lennar, Miami; Architect: Woodley Architectural Group, Denver

Project 3 Silverado Place
Las Vegas

Targeted toward young professionals, this entry-level house has room for just the basics--and no backyard. Tracy Lee, vice president of design for Astoria Homes, made the most of the tiny lot by including a landscaped and fenced front courtyard for outdoor living. At 7 feet by 13 feet, the courtyard is just big enough for a patio table and chairs. Well-mannered street elevations feature recessed one-car garages and projections such as balconies and covered entryways that break up the box.

Inside, the kitchen, dining, and living areas read as one large space, and the laundry, tucked into a niche in the garage, consists of stacked units that come with the house. The upper level is big enough for two bedrooms and a multipurpose loft. Astoria offers four different floor plans in this 429-home community ranging from 1,138 square feet to 1,244 square feet, and three elevation choices per plan. Lee says the builder's best-selling model is the largest one, which features a deck off the master suite.

Project: Silverado Place, Las Vegas; Lot size: 1,530 square feet (34 feet wide by 45 feet deep); House size: 1,176 square feet; Builder/Developer/Architect: Astoria Homes, Las Vegas

Project 4 Harbor Town
Memphis, Tenn.

As charming as a child's drawing, the lines of these simple little houses in a master planned TND belie their thoughtful floor plan. The houses live and look larger than they are, thanks to the open gables that shelter abstracted porches in front and back, and a common park off the back alley that extends the living space. "The advantage of these smaller lots is that you can pull from the community amenities of parks and trail systems," notes Looney Ricks Kiss architect Mark Jones. "But it's important that the lots vary in size to appeal to every buyer."

Two-story volumes and crisp, clean interiors were designed to appeal to single professionals. Against the all-white walls, the architects injected visual interest with exposed tie beams and a jazzy spiral stair. Privacy and flexibility are important elements of these tiny homes. Jones says that on small lots you really have to control window placements. Sill heights on windows facing the neighbor's designated private zone are placed at least 5 1/2 feet off the floor. And the parking is front loaded, but it's an open carport that the owners can walk through or use as a side patio.

Identical in form, the houses rely on their differing colors to create a streetscape. "It's simple construction--balloon framing, a tilt-up wall, and you're set to go," Jones says. "The simplicities of these houses are what make them special."

Project: Harbor Town, Memphis, Tenn.; Average lot size: 3,000 square feet (30 feet wide by 100 feet deep); House size: 1,534 square feet; Builder/developer: Ben Reisman, Memphis; Architect: Looney Ricks Kiss, Memphis; Land planner: RTKL, Baltimore

Project 5 North Creek Cottages
Bothell, Wash.

With their soft, muted colors and their classic details, these homes are as welcoming as their name suggests. Many of the houses sit a mere 7 feet apart, though the size of the lots varies. They're clustered around two common open spaces and bordered by a wetland. On the three-bedroom-plus-den plan shown below, the architects opened up the first floor to one big great room and tucked the kitchen around behind to give it some separation from the living area. Standing in the entryway, you can look diagonally through the house and see the grassy common beyond.

Mithun created neighborly elevations that emphasize the porch, which is large enough to set a few chairs on. The homes are clad in the contrasting textures of earth-toned cement fiberboard and cedar shingles. The photo shown above is not, however, indicative of all the North Creek Cottages. A stormwater detention vault in the front yard of several houses required a 20-foot setback, whereas the majority of homes in the community sit 5 to 10 feet from the sidewalk.

Project: North Creek Cottages, Bothell, Wash.; Average lot size: 2,035 square feet (37 feet wide by 55 feet deep); House size: 1,584 square feet; Builder/developer: CamWest, Kirkland, Wash.; Architect/Land planner: Mithun, Seattle

The Shrinking Lot

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Memphis, TN.