architecture blog

A Skinny Solution for Small House Floor Plans

Posted by Krystal Navar on Wed, May 30, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

A while back, we posted about our design process for developing master suite floor plan options for the Cullen Street Small Lot Subdivision project. We presented 6 different layout options, but there were countless variations. Usually, on a project, we decide which layout to run with based on our own design preference and direction given to us by our client.

Our 14-home Commerce Villas Small Lot Subdivision project in Tujunga, however, presented a unique set of challenges. To lay out 14 homes on the site in the most efficient manner, taking into consideration setbacks, driveway widths, vehicle backup requirements, etc., each home ended up being a mere 15’-0” wide, measuring from the exterior face of the north wall to the exterior face of the south wall.

small house plans

Site Plan of Commerce Villas project

The Cullen Street building footprints are generally square, whereas the Commerce Villas building footprints are long and skinny. So, unlike the Cullen homes, where there were many variations of floor plan layouts, the narrowness of the Commerce Villas homes limited our options. There are only so many ways to lay out a home like this, fitting in the programatic requirements given to us by the client: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, outdoor decks/patios, and 2 covered parking spaces in 1200-1500 square feet.

First of all, the narrowness of the homes necessitates that the parking be tandem. (We can discuss the pros and cons of tandem parking all day long, but we’ll leave that to another blog post.) Also, we decided early on through discussions with the client that the living level (kitchen, dining room, living room, and powder room) would be located on the second level and the bedrooms and laundry located on the third level due to the age of the anticipated potential buyer. We expected this buyer would not want to haul their groceries up two flights of stairs. (Many times, though, on other projects, we will locate the living spaces on the upper level when the project is appealing to a younger demographic and the views from the upper level warrant being appreciated during daylight hours and not while you’re sleeping in bed.)

small house floor plans

Early first floor plan

skinny solution small house floor plans

Early second floor plan

la modern skinny house plans 03

Early third floor plan

So, keeping these constraints in mind, after locating the parking in the footprint, there is only one space to locate the stair without having the stair separate the living spaces from the deck or yard space. Once the stair is located, the big decision is on which side of the home (east or west) to locate the kitchen or the living room. Should the kitchen have direct access to the deck (so the user doesn’t have very far to travel when bbq-ing) or should the living room? The client chose Option 2.

small house plans la architect small lot

Option 1 showing the kitchen next to the deck. (See Option 2 above with living next to the deck.)

We also developed a second option for the bedroom level with a walk-in laundry room instead of a stacking washer/dryer in a laundry closet. Ultimately, we decided to locate the bathrooms next to one another so they could share a plumbing wall. The client also decided that a walk-in laundry room was not a priority.

modern bedroom floor plans small house

Option 2 showing the kitchen next to the deck. (See Option 1 above.)

As we spent more time looking at the buildings three-dimensionally in our computer model, we tried ways to spice things up. We couldn’t do anything too crazy as keeping the cost of construction low was a priority. In an attempt to make the 6’-0” spaces between the buildings a more interesting space to occupy, we angled the exterior walls facing those gaps. However, because the walls could not be angled out to make the buildings greater than 15’-0” wide, the walls had to be angled in, making the already limited interior spaces smaller. When your home is only 15’-0” wide, every inch counts. Ultimately, we decided that the angled walls were not angled enough to be worth the effort (or implied cost), so we straightened them back out.

small lot house plan

Second level floor plan showing angled walls

In the latest layouts, we did keep the angled walls on the front of the units in order to give the elevation a bit of shadow-play and interest. As you may have already noticed, we also staggered the building pairs. We did not want to present the street or the interior driveway with a flush wall of 3-story homes. Staggering the homes gives these elevations a bit of relief and creates a more interesting pedestrian experience.

modern small house plan

Latest first floor plan

narrow house floor plan

Latest second floor plan

modern small lot floor plan

Latest third floor plan

small lot subdivision tujunga

Project rendering

Post by Krystal Návar. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .

Tags: Residential, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, home size, Small House, Floor Plans, affordable modern architecture, los angeles architects

Modative Architecture Provides Stimulus Package

Posted by Christian Navar on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 @ 06:11 AM

Modative Fay Ave 2 Unit

Spent too much on land?

For years in our industry I used to hear how architects know close to nothing when it comes to staying on budget, that overspending is commonplace for most designers. With the severe downturn in the real estate industry it seems like architects finally aren’t the only ones who can be accused of overspending!

Like many Los Angeles architecture firms, many of our prize projects have been scrapped in the last couple of years. Our projects became victims of overspending, and this time, you can’t blame the architect for over-designing, ignoring budgets and having cost overruns.

These days it is now clear that spending too much on land and planning oversized projects has become the real project killer.

So, you bought too high you say? Now what?

So, you bought a property at the height of the building boom and now your budget numbers don’t  look so good and you need to put the project on hold? Hmm, if I had a dollar for every time I have heard that in the last year, Modative could bail us all out of this crisis.

Being designers, we of course naturally believe that you can design your way out of anything. Here at Modative, we believe that if the government hired more designers, or real problem solvers, we would need less “financial experts” and definitely less slow-moving bureaucrats. If you think members of the Obama Administration are the only ones offering bailouts these days, you should check out our new 2-unit small lot subdivision “stimulus package”.

Modative’s stimulus package

The project site is currently vacant land that sits between two other lots that combined were once part of a 7-unit small lot subdivision project on Fay Avenue in Los Angeles. After the economy crashed, the project was placed on hold, and our client found themselves with an overpriced and underutilized piece of dirt.

Fay Avenue Property

In classic boomtown fashion, the original project consisted of seven luxury three-story units that were slated to be between 1,750 and 1,900 square feet each. After the bust, the client asked us to reevaluate the site, specifically the vacant dirt lot, and propose a simple, cost-effective solution that would bring added value to this property which wasn’t generating any income.

Creative solutions can revive a project

This isn’t our only revisited post-downturn, multi-unit housing project currently on the boards. In fact many of our recent projects have come to us as previously-approved condominium projects designed by other firms. Aside from being asked to turn defunct condominium projects into small lot subdivisions, we hear the same thing over and over, how small can we make a residential unit and still have it be marketable?

In the case of the Fay Avenue project, we proposed starting out with just two very simple two-story, 1,000 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath units that could be offered at a price point more favorable in the current marketplace. We then devised a creative phasing option, placing the proposed units on the site so that the owner could utilize the other two lots as part of a future phased expansion, that in the end will total 7 units. In the meantime, they could continue to rent the units on the other lots and wait for the economy and the current lending situation to improve. We have always believed in smaller units, but now, with the current state of the economy, we can finally get people to believe that bigger isn’t always better.

 

small lot subdivision phasing diagram

 

We were proud of our original 7-unit project, but sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. In the meantime, we’ll continue to take pride in knowing that our redesigned 2-unit “stimulus package” will help provide an added income stream for our client.

An architecture professor of ours from USC once said, “I am teaching you how to solve problems, not so you will become good architects, but so you will become great politicians.” Well with the current unemployment rate in California hovering somewhere around 12.4%, anything Modative can do to be part of the solution is something to be proud of.

“The first phase of the Fay Avenue project is slated to begin construction in the Spring of 2011. The Obama administration is still running some calculations to determine the exact number of jobs this project will add once construction begins, but thanks to Modative, we are pretty sure not only will this project be beneficial to job creation, but maybe, just maybe, it will even help stimulate small businesses lending again!” - Unknown Politician

We plan to post project updates on our website regarding this project, so if you’re interested, continue to check back for more info.

Fay Avenue Property Rear

Contributors to this post include Derek Leavitt, AIA, Michael Scott and Krystal Návar.

Tags: Property, Development, Los Angeles, Multi Family Housing, Small Lot Subdivision, Modern Design, Architectual Practice, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, small homes, home size

Small Home Sizes

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 @ 11:06 AM

Our last post about the advantages of small homes got me thinking,  what really constitutes a small home? What is the size cutoff for a home to be considered small?

LEED for Homes (the industry standard for green homes) quantifies this well. Before you can even begin counting points for certification, your level is adjusted according to the size of your home. The smaller your home, the easier it is to get certified.

The chart below shows the home sizes they consider to be "neutral". If your home is larger than the "neutral" size, you're penalized; smaller, you're rewarded.

 

LEED for Homes Rating System

Threshold Adjustment Equation - "neutral" home sizes

 1 Bedroom
2 Bedrooms 3 Bedrooms
4 Bedrooms  5 Bedrooms
 900 sq. ft.
 1,400 sq. ft. 1,900 sq. ft. 2,600 sq. ft. 2,850 sq. ft.

 

I was relieved that my 1,400 sq. ft. two-bedroom townhouse falls directly into the "neutral" home size threshold. How does your home stack up?

 

The following is the full chart as it is found in the LEED Homes Rating System.

small home sizes

Tags: Housing, architecture resources, small homes, home size, LEED, green homes