House sizes are shrinking in these frugal times, and builders are working with tighter constraints when it comes to building envelopes, lot sizes, and budgets. But with a little ingenuity and discipline, a small home can feel plenty roomy and every bit as lovely as a larger one. Here are some tips for making the best of a small situation.

Photos: Courtesy EcoBuilders

Go for pocket doors.

A pocket or wall-mounted sliding door can yield 10 square feet of usable space that would otherwise by taken up by clearance on a swinging door. These nifty little space-savers can be particularly handy for closing off kitchen pantries, storage closets, computer niches, or even entire rooms, such as the powder room in this house by EcoBuilders in Asheville, N.C. And, with a little creativity, a pocket door also can serve as a design element that adds character.

Photos: Ed Hall

Improve circulation.

Hallways tend to eat up precious square footage and can make a small house feel cramped. The good news is you probably don’t need them, seeing as how today’s casual lifestyles are conducive to open floor plans with fewer interior walls. When communal zones such as the kitchen, dining, and living area flow together, narrow passageways are unnecessary. This 1,282-square-foot starter cottage by SRG Homes in Jacksonville, Fla. shows how it’s done.

Photos: Erla Dogg Ingjaldsdottir

Build secret hideaways.

Rule number one in making a wee space feel larger? Reduce visual clutter. Think about how to exploit wall cavities and other nooks and crannies to create clever hiding spots for things such as trash, recycling, canned goods, linens, and seating. This sleek kitchen island by Minarc--made from recycled tires and wrapped in orange Corian--includes tuck-away bar stools that disappear into the unit when not in use.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.