Secrets of the Best Small House Plans

What, exactly, are small house plans? The general definition of a small house is one that is less than 1,500 square feet.

But "small house" is actually a very relative some, that means 300 square feet, and to others, it means 3,000 square feet!

The bottom line, though, is that small house plans should meet your needs to a "T" and maximize every inch of space for those needs. But what are your needs?

This is something you must determine before embarking on a search for an existing plan, or commissioning an architect or draftsman to create a custom plan for you.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How many bedrooms do I need?
  • How many bathrooms do I need?
  • What are my storage needs?
  • What is my budget?

If you are living in this house year-round, you need to make sure you have space for all of your necessities. Now, the word "necessity" means something different for everyone. Is it a necessity to have a walk-in closet? Probably not. Is it a necessity to have a sleeping space that is quiet and private enough to ensure a good night's sleep? Most people would say "yes."

So, after you determine what your absolute necessities are, then you can begin coming up with design ideas for your small house.

5 Secrets of Small House Plans That Work!

1. Design space for multiple uses. For example, a kitchen island countertop can double as a dining room table. Consider having the countertop curved on the outer edge for this purpose. The extra material cost is minimal, and the curve will create a pleasant space for dining.

2. Use pocket doors. Pocket doors were used in many older homes, but they can be put to great use in today's homes, especially for small houses. You would be amazed at how much space is saved by not having the "swing" area of a typical door. Pocket doors don't cost much for a builder to install, but in a small home plan, they can make a huge difference.

3. Place stairs wisely. Stairs can be a huge space eater. You'll want to make them as small as possible, yet still allow comfortable-size steps and space for moving furniture. Remember, however, that the space beneath stairs can provide a great storage area. Spiral stairs are an option, but they can be dangerous and difficult to use.

4. Make your ceilings taller. This is an inexpensive way to incorporate storage space AND make your spaces feel much larger than they are. A typical ceiling height is 8 feet. Increase that to 9, 10, or even 12 feet, and you've gained a tremendous amount of space for little money. You can then add floor-to-ceiling cabinets for storage. (Just keep a stepstool on hand!)

5. For two-story small house plans, use a gambrel style roof. Gambrel style roofs are the ones you see on many older barns. They allow much more ceiling and floor space than a typical roof peak. If you are using a two-story small house plan, this style roof will give you up to 1/3 more space on that second floor.

Here at Wise Home Design, we love small home plans. Small homes are naturally energy efficient, affordable, and they're cute to boot! Learn about building a small house.

Here's one of our favorite small house plans that one of our listed designers recently created, "The Seabreeze." It's 1368 square feet (interior), and was built using ICF (insulating concrete forms). ICF uses solid poured concrete walls with foam on both sides, which creates incredible energy efficiency and resistance to severe weather. Note its use of pocket doors, as well as higher ceilings (from 9 to 12 feet).

The Seabreeze

This is a small house that's big on class and character. It fits well onto suburban or urban lots. Note its use of pocket doors and a curved kitchen counter to maximize space.
     This house is built with our favorite building method, ICF (insulating concrete forms). It is virtually hurricane and tornado resistant, as well as insect resistant. Owners report extremely low utility bills, due to its excellent energy efficiency.

3 bedrooms, 2 baths
1,368 square feet of interior space (1520 exterior)
Slab foundation (other foundations available)
Dimensions: 40'-5" x 39'-4 1/2"
ICF construction with 11-inch walls

View this small house under construction here.

An owner's photo of the exterior (landscaping and exterior finishing are still in progress).

small house plans, small home plans, small house plan

Want to see photos of this small house under construction and after it was completed?

Contact the designer
about this plan if you'd like to learn more.

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