There’s a lot to love about small houses: less upkeep, lower utility costs, manageable floor plans. If you already live in a small house or are thinking of buying one, you’ll probably spend lots of time on the interior. But key exterior design and landscaping tips can do much to play up all that’s wonderful about your small home. Here are six ideas, as well as some key considerations, for small houses.
1. Do: Reveal your home’s footprint. Don’t: Try to hide its size.
One adjective that’s often used to describe small-house exteriors is charming. That’s because the combination of color, size and landscape creates an approachable, welcoming facade for street-side viewers. Instead of hiding your home’s compact footprint, play it up using proportional containers, window boxes and added decor items — like a hanging birdhouse and retro metal chairs — that fit both the scale and style of your home.
2. Do: Minimize visual clutter. Don’t: Add, add, add.
Many of us act on the urge to add more — more landscaping, more trim, more details. Those can quickly overwhelm a small house and detract from its appeal. For example, instead of a dressed-up portico and overwrought trim, focus on simple supports, stylish yet restrained shutters and a conservative mailbox.
3. Do: Streamline the landscaping. Don’t: Let trees, shrubs and flowers get overgrown.
Small, clean-lined homes rely on just a few details for visual interest. To emphasize restrained beauty, pare down the landscaping to just a color or two and a few plants. A low-clipped hedge offers definition for the home’s edge (and can hide an unattractive foundation line too). To add variety without clutter, consider breaking up the sidewalk with an unusual material or a minimalist pattern.
4. Do: Accentuate or add to architectural details. Don’t: Mask features that shine on your house.
Look closely and you’ll probably see subtle extras on your home that add character; when enhanced in a style-appropriate way, those small pieces help to create a cohesive exterior design. Narrow vertical trim pieces can break up the otherwise unadorned expanse of a street-facing roofline, while simple trim and moldings bump up the aesthetic of the columns and windows. Bonus: If your home doesn’t have these details, they are typically not difficult to add, especially with a few DIY skills.
5. Do: Pick a single color. Don’t: Hide your home in the shadows.
Dark colors might seem like a good fit for a small home — and sometimes they are. But particular styles and sites might be more attractive in a monochromatic arrangement, as with a compact stucco home. A warm, buttery cream color helps the exterior to reflect light, while the pale, subdued contrast of white trim enhances the lines of the open and airy porch.
6. Do: Connect to the outdoors. Don’t: Ignore your yard.
An easy way to enhance the exterior appeal of a small house is to make it live bigger by cementing the connection to the landscape and outside living spaces. A house may invite outdoor living with a compact screen porch that encourages front yard interaction. Covered porches, decks and patios work in the same way, particularly if they’re connected directly to your small home’s main living spaces.
If you’re deciding whether a small-house plan is for you …
Think about your essential spaces and your daily schedule. Do you really need a dedicated home office, or would a stretch of counter in the kitchen work fine? Is your family into formal dinners, or do eat-prep-dine combo spaces fit your lifestyle? Know what you absolutely need and what you can live without.
Include outdoor living spaces in your overall floor plan. Small houses live much larger when they have patios, porches or decks, even if they can only be used on good-weather days.
Think quality, not quantity. One big full bathroom with two sinks, a tub and a shower might be much more pleasing, as well as inherently adaptable to life changes, than two small spaces with single sinks and just a shower. Likewise, a roomy living space with a fireplace and bookcases might be perfect in place of two family rooms that feel crowded and don’t have any extra amenities.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)