logo image

A New 704 SF House in Portland, OR

Photo via the NY Times / Aaron Leitz

Photo via the NY Times / Aaron Leitz

Articles on the topic of small-space living has become almost commonplace in the mainstream news lately. I’m still not sure if it’s indicative of a real trend, or if it’s an enticing enough subject that whenever someone comes out and builds a novel, small house under 1,000 s.f., it’s worthy of a feature.

The latest I’ve seen is a 704-s.f. house in Portland, OR, featured in the New York Times. See the slideshow on the link for a tour.

First, this house doesn’t seem that small, especially because of the storage sheds and the huge yard. I’m not sure if the 704 s.f. include the sheds, but I’d assume it does based on the photos of the house.

The point made about this house is that its small size affords the couple who built it more time to do things other than maintain their house. As Lily Copenagle, one of the owners, puts it, “We never liked furnishing or cleaning or taking care of things we really didn’t need.” This is a big advantage of having a small living space that’s often overlooked. As Leigh Gallagher points out in her book, The End of the Suburbs, time is one thing that people are surprised they have more of when they move back into the city. Not just because their commutes are shorter, but because they spend so much less time maintaining huge lawns, gutters, garages, etc. Looking at the amount of yard and garden space – not to mention a green roof – this house has, I doubt they’re saving much time on that. But the interior of this house, which is essentially one clean, open floor plan, does look like it’d be simple to maintain.

Also of interest is the cost of the construction. The design is very simple, with a shed roof, large windows and what appears to be Hardie siding. Very Pacific Northwest. Not including their own labor, the cost was estimated at $135,000, which comes out around $190/s.f. I’m not sure if that included the demolition of the existing house, but that’s impressive for the new construction of a small structure. (For reference, the average cost of building a house in 2011 was about $80/sf, but for an average size more than triple this one (2,311 s.f., and this figure includes mostly non-custom homes). The idea that one could build a comfortable house in the middle of the city for under $200k is pretty enticing for people in a lot of cities these days.

One of the design features the NY Times points out is that the house doesn’t seem so small because of it’s huge yard. While this is true, the yard also makes it less appealing as a house in the city. The house itself is interesting because of its simplicity, constructibility and affordability. One might imagine a house like this could be replicated several times on a lot to densify a neighborhood without dominating the block with a boxy tower. However, with its current siting and context, it’s more of a novelty and represents an idea of living more simply, rather than a push toward urban density.

Responses (2)

  1. martha brady says:

    Is it possible to get a floor plan of this 704 sf house. Trying to figure out where the bathroom is. Thanks

    • JS says:

      I tried to get in touch with them for plans and sections a while ago, but never heard back. However, I’m fairly certain the bathroom is next to the bedroom nook, right behind the kitchen. I’d guess it opens onto the bedroom.

      If you look at the photos in the NYTimes article, you can see a kitchen counter through the glass in photo 2, and in photo 4 you can see the counter is in front of the bedroom nook. This would make good planning sense, because in photo 1 you can see the bedroom/privaet end of the building is expressed as opaque, so that end would be the logical place to stick the bathroom.

Leave a Reply