Small log cabins are more popular now than ever. Not only are they more affordable, but they provide the close-quarter comfort their owners crave.
“Even people who have large homes gravitate toward small, cozy spaces,” says designer Murray Arnott, owner of Murray Arnott Design. “Intimate spaces meet the need for security.” Squeezing everything into the design of your small home can be challenging.
It helps to have a couple tricks up your sleeve. We tapped some of the country’s top log-home architects and designers to get their tips for making the most of small home design.
1. Borrow space within an open floor plan.
“Minimize the number of walls within your space,” says Jeff Wiseman of Wiseman-Keller Design. “Open spaces are more comfortable and allow for versatility.” Open floor plans also make your spaces work twice as hard.
2. Keep it simple.
According to architect Jean Steinbrecher, owner of Jean Steinbrecher Architects, a square or rectangular floor plan not only saves money, but eliminates tiny spaces where logwork is awkward and difficult to piece together. It also eases the relationship between the builder and homeowner since a simple plan is easier to construct.
3. Incorporate clever storage.
Consider storage early on in the planning and find ways to use every square foot of your space. A small home can never have too much storage. Build at least one good-sized closet in every room for clothing, linens, coats, brooms, extra food, etc., then find clever ways to make use of other storage spaces.
4. Expand upward, not outward.
Whether limited by budget or the size of your property, you can make good use of a small home by adding floor levels. It’s less expensive and more effective than expanding the footprint. Cathedral ceilings are nice but they eat up valuable square footage where an upper level or loft could be built. Raising your ceilings a foot can create a similar effect without wasting any second-floor space.
5. Provide perceived space.
None of these rules are set in stone. Contrary to the previous point, sometimes perceived space is more valuable than actual space. You may decide the open feel of a cathedral ceiling is well worth the space lost by going without that second-floor space.
6. Remove extraneous rooms.
Do a thorough self-analysis before designing your home. By cutting space from bedrooms and bathrooms, you can add crucial square footage to other rooms. Keep living spaces and common areas as big as possible to better accommodate guests.
7. Do away with hallways.
“They take up space for little benefit,” Fillion says. “Removing a hall that separates the kitchen and dining rooms results in more usable space and you can still get to the living room just as easily.”
8. Use outdoor spaces to expand living space.
Find other ways to expand your spaces and bring the outdoors in. Porches and decks provide overflow space for homeowners and guests. Dormers, bump-outs, breakfast nooks with bay windows and gabled entry elements also expand living space. Clerestory windows and lofts with views bring in natural light, further blurring the line between inside and outside spaces.
9. Use thoughtful decor.
“Finish your rooms in ways that maximize the perceived space,” Arnott says. “A monotonous space without depth and shadow feels lifeless and smaller than it actually is. Adding depth and accents through lighting and trim details makes spaces feel larger and more alive.”
10. Provide a focal point.
If you have one focal point per room (fireplace, stairs, wall of windows, etc.) your rooms will feel comfortable and less cluttered — an important consideration when dealing with small spaces.
11. Incorporate space-conscious stair and fireplace design.
Straight stairs require less room than U-shape or right-angle stairs. Stay away from curved stairs. Spiral stairs and ladders are good space savers but aren’t very functional, especially when transporting bulky objects. Choose a fireplace that doesn’t eat up space, then place it where it maximizes square footage.
12. Keep small kitchens functional.
“A 30″ wide refrigerator, conventional four-burner range and a pair of sinks makes an adequate kitchen,” Steinbrecher says. “Allow 18 to 24 inches of counter space on each side of the stove and at least 2 feet on one side of the sink. Use base cabinets below and shelves or upper cabinets above for [efficient storage].”
13. Don’t sacrifice quality.
“Scale down size, not quality, of appliances. Smaller ranges, refrigerators and stacking washer/dryers are available in most name brands,” Wiseman says.
14. Use proportionate logs.
“The size of logs is very important,” Wiseman says. “Think proportion.” Huge logs can make a small home feel even smaller. Use logs that complement the size of your home’s rooms. Visit log homes in your area and note how log size affects the look and perceived size of each.
15. Finish the basement.
A finished basement adds inexpensive yet functional space. This lower-level space works well for secondary bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms and rec rooms.
More: Log Home Design Ideas