When you first look at our house plans it’s immediately obvious that we have a narrow house. What sometimes surprises people though is how narrow it is. 20 feet wide. In fact it freaks a lot of people out–they have trouble imagining living in a house that’s so skinny. Usually I respond to their concerns with something like, “well that’s the wide part of the house. The private portion of the house is only 16 feet wide.”

So is it narrow? Most definitely. Is it too narrow. Most definitely not.

One of these days I’ll ask if Matt would be willing to contribute a post, walking through the design philosophy and inspiration, and what drove the project from his perspective. In the meantime though I’ll walk through the basics. There are some very interesting things going on. Many of these are subtle, and some will hit visitors like a brick to the head. Or something.

The narrow footprint is possible because of how the rooms are aligned–all in a row. I recently heard this described as a “loaf of bread house.” Mudroom , dining room, kitchen, living room, office–all in a row.

Compare this with, say, a traditional four square house, where you’d walk in the front door and to your left is a den, to your right is a library/office, ahead to the right is a kitchen and ahead to the left is the dining room. Below are a couple of images that show this. Spokane’s South Hill has many houses similar to this–typically around 30 feet wide. In a house like this there’s a central corridor, with rooms to either side. So, you’re left with a series of rooms that are say 13 or 14 feet wide and long.

Our house, at twenty feet wide, will actually have generously-sized rooms. Plus, look at the corridors, or as the designers would say, the circulation spine. These are pushed to the outside of the house. What this does is create hallways that are open to the various rooms that in essence “borrow” visual space from the courtyards.

Standing near the dining room. Rooms are to the left, the south court to the right.

Some more contemporary houses use a great room concept. This typically means an open plan that combines the living room, kitchen and dining room into one giant room, often in  an L shape. So yes, it’s open–each room spills into another. But if you look at the actual size of each “room”  more often than not you’ll find they’re similar in size to the rooms from the traditional four square. An architect or designer could speak to this with more authority, but my guess is this is because rooms need to be scaled for people. When a room gets too big, say 20 feet by 30 feet, it turns into a room with multiple zones. So you have a TV watching area and a separate sitting area, or something.

So back to our plans. The rooms are in a row, but we’ve tried to create a distinction between them. It’s a pretty open plan, but we have a series of floor to ceiling storage posts that define the rooms. So even though the kitchen is adjacent to the living room, it should feel like you’re in a distinctly different areas. These posts also create a different ceiling line than what will be in the corridors. Should be interesting.  More on this another time…