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“The Skinny” – A 12-Foot-Wide House in Seattle

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I hesitate to call this a small house, because it hides 1400 S.F of floor area behind its svelte, 12-ft wide profile.

However, context is everything, and the 2-bedroom home sits in a part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, where the average house is more than twice its size. Developed on a subdivided lot that is 17’x120′ , it  stands out because of its width, which inspired the owners to nickname it “The Skinny.”

Front view showing depth of the house. The roof form and use of materials are typical of contemporary Northwest house construction. This, all interior photos, and plans are courtesy of Steele Homes, Inc.

Front view showing depth of the house. The roof form and use of materials are typical of contemporary Northwest house construction. This, all interior photos, and plans are courtesy of Steele Homes, Inc.

 

Design. As the interior photos show, the house does not feel particularly tight, despite its 11-ft wall-to-wall dimension. If I only saw the interiors, I’d assume the place was one of the town houses or condos popping up all over the city these days.

Entrance and Living Area

Entrance and Living Area

Kitchen and back door

Kitchen and back door

Dining Area

Dining Area

The floor plan is very efficient and reminiscent of  apartment layouts in New York or San Francisco. The living and sleeping rooms are placed at the extreme ends while the core utilities, corridors and stairs are concentrated at the center. This maximizes daylight in the main spaces.

Top: first floor plan. Bottom: second floor plan.

Top: first floor plan. Bottom: second floor plan.

 

Emphasis is placed on the kitchen, which gets more space at the back wall, rather than the dining area. There are some nice details that make the house feel more open, including the day-lit open stair and some strategically placed windows along the corridor.

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sign post flyer template_v1

Master Bedroom

Context and Development. Many neighborhoods in Seattle can feel suburban. Single-family homes sit behind generous front yards, and typical 5000-s.f. lot sizes ensure the rhythm of the streetscape is as leisurely as any urban street in the country. That’s why it’s remarkable that the developer/builder, Steele Homes Inc., thought to subdivide this previously full-sized lot to wedge a second, much smaller house on the property (there used to be another garage where The Skinny stands now).

Zoomed-out view of the street showing context.

Zoomed-out view of the street showing context.

Also remarkable is the fact that the spec house sat on the market for under two weeks in 2010. Steele Granger, the general contractor and mastermind behind the project, guessed it sold in 10 days. Granger attributes the success to a couple of factors.

First, the east part of Capitol Hill is very popular and never saw the worst of the housing crisis that was still a large nationwide worry in 2010. There are great views of water and mountains from the street, and here the location easily trumps size. Also, the smaller size made the house less exclusive and allowed the house to fall within more buyers’ price ranges. As Granger points out, a smaller home means a smaller sales price. Finally, the simple clean style of the house was also appealing to many buyers. “Modern contemporary is hot right now,” said Granger.

View of the back yard and rear entrance.

View of the back yard and rear entrance.

Looking forward to more Skinny Houses. What I find encouraging about this house is the fact that it sold so quickly despite its tight dimensions. Granger told me that it was “one of the easiest houses to build,” and the City of Seattle is encouraging the practice of subdividing to add more density to these suburban-like neighborhoods. This seems like a great example of moving a growing city forward, without eliminating the detached-house-with-yard context that so many people move to these neighborhoods for. I don’t see a place like Capitol Hill, or most West Coast cities like Portland for that matter, eschewing their yards anytime soon, but this is an intermediate step toward a more urbanized city.

In researching this house, I noticed it is targeted by Seattle’s One Home Per Lot activist group. This group typically fights against “monster houses” that break from the context of traditional Seattle neighborhoods. With this particular house, I find it funny that this qualifies as a “monster house.” If anything, it makes the others around it look monstrous. I wonder if they’re against the lot subdivision? Or perhaps just against the contemporary style (I personally find the style fairly conservative compared to other new Seattle homes).

I will have to look into their cause more, and perhaps OHPL can clarify. Granger – whose work is a frequent target of this group – responded to their general attitude that “we’re trying to move people into Seattle, create jobs, etc. it’s mind boggling that they’re slamming on it.”

Related: Seattle Passes Pro- and Anti-Density Bills in the Same Session

 

 

 

Responses (4)

  1. […] scheme follows the strategy of other long, thin houses in plan. All the main living spaces (kitchen, living, courtyard) are pushed to back where there is […]

  2. Jeff says:

    Great piece. I follow the builder and support the concept. Would love to see more in Seattle!

  3. […] is a great post up at Living in Density (a blog  featuring small living spaces) featuring a home built by a local builder, Steele […]

  4. Phill Jackson says:

    What a nice house! I especially like houses that are different. Like this skinny house. I could see myself definitely living this house! At the moment I am busy building a house and this gives me a lot of inspiration. It is very nice to build a house by yourself as you can be really creative. The most rewarding thing is when the house is finished and you look up to the house and think by yourself, I built this house. It is nice to see the outcome of the house you built yourself. I am also buy with interior design. If I could design this house by myself I would install floating stairs in this house. It would make the house a bit more modern, but hey that is my view. I want to thank you for this nice post!

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