Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania and has served on several design juries. 

Small Not Tiny

They arrive almost every day, via design blogs, emails, colleagues, and friends. Modern or gingerbready, space-age or shingled, from the Netherlands to Nashville to New Zealand. They have clever storage that lays to waste the idea of unused square footage. Some deliver loads of features in a little space via quaint and quirky details; still others do it via resolutely modernist moves. Some are perched in trees. Others sit on wheels. With their promise of fewer material burdens, lower maintenance, and a simpler life, tiny houses have captured the world’s imagination. Compact and light-filled, they look great in photographs and usually amuse, if for no other reason than begging the perfectly reasonable question: “Does anyone really live here?” That’s because, for many of us, living a pared-down life is an appealing notion, but living in a tiny house full-time isn’t entirely realistic.

My colleague, Nigel Maynard, whom you’ve seen on these pages, is editor of our sister publications Products and NKBA Innovation+Inspiration. He and I often talk about houses. It’s all in a day’s work, and it’s part of our lives. Nigel is renovating a 1924 farmhouse outside Washington, D.C., and I’ve been slowly updating a 1950s ranch-burger in Los Angeles. Both homes are well under 1,500 square feet. Both, we agree, are exactly enough. 

There’s a growing movement of people who feel similarly, and this month, we examine the increasing appeal of the small house. As senior editor Susan Bady explains, downsizing has come to mean something different from what it once did. “Empty nesters with active lifestyles no longer view downsizing as going from 10,000 to 5,000 square feet,” Bady writes. Budgets are being scrutinized; footprints are being contemplated. Many of the custom homes that clients want are packed with thoughtful design and smart features, but they measure 2,000 square feet—or quite a bit less. 

There’s a reason why some 300-square-foot houses seem cool—they’re an invitation to get rid of stuff, and that gives you freedom. But the reality is, even if your clients aren’t into stuff, they’ve lived lives and they have hobbies and passions. By extension, they have belongings. Homes as small as those starting on page 16 may not be the right fit for everybody, but they’re proof that smart design is highly desirable, regardless of size—and probably because of it. We hope they provide inspiration for the next home you design and build.

Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 06:00

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April 2017

This Month in Custom Builder

Features

Builders share their war stories about lawsuits, contract disputes and offer advice for reducing liability and fending off liens.

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