The assignment wasn't exactly a piece of cake: a postage-stamp–sized lot (measuring 45 by 60 feet) in a flood plain with site requirements for a self-contained septic system and drain field. Some builders would have walked away, but Holbeck Construction teamed with the architects at Pelletier + Schaar to create this jewel-box of a home in a rural area of Washington state whose street grid predates the invention of the automobile.

Measuring less than 2,000 square feet, the house is as compact as a Swiss army knife, with transitional architecture that complements neighboring homes. Craftsman-style elements such as heavy barge boards, brackets, and shingle siding with double narrow-wide exposure reference the modest cabin that once occupied the spot in this former logging community. But the replacement structure also neatly incorporates contemporary elements such as glass and steel.

Spatial economies crop up everywhere, including a one-car garage, a powder room tucked under the stairs, and a crawl space transformed into a wine cellar. “Using staggered levels allowed us to utilize a lot of cavity space,” explains architect David Pelletier, noting that all main living areas are raised 2 feet above grade to meet flood elevation requirements. A slight ramp leading to the garage bridges a hidden drain field in the front yard, the position of which was determined by setback requirements and the soil.

Despite its diminutive size, the house feels plenty roomy thanks to 9-foot ceilings and large expanses of glass framing views of the water. An intimate front courtyard, wrap-around decking (made of recycled plastic), and breezy balconies play an integral role in drawing connections to the outdoors. “In tight spaces, it helps if you can gesture to the environment outside to expand the feeling of spaciousness,” Pelletier says. Every room in the house has a view, save the master closet and second-floor media room.

“This house happened before the sustainability movement really accelerated, but it ended up being a pretty sustainable structure,” he observes. “The owners would have done a bigger house, but they loved the property here. Now they're glad the house isn't very big, because it's easier to maintain and easier to heat.”

Project: Meade Residence, Camano Island, Wash.; Size: 2,000 square feet; Builder: Holbeck Construction and Design, Stanwood, Wash.; Architect: Pelletier + Schaar, Stanwood; Interior designer: Schoener's Interiors, Lynnwood, Wash.