Small is the new green

Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock density and diversity. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.

Monday, August 22

wenatchee proposes cottage housing


The Wenatchee City Council recently hear a presentation of proposed changes that will make it easier to build cottage housing among other projects. The council will vote on these changes in October.
Wenatchee is hoping that allowing cottage housing will encourage the infill of new homes. Infill developments utilize less municipal resources than construction in previously undeveloped areas. They also save forest and farm land and lend themselves to walkable communities. Cottage housing units are typically smaller than traditional houses usually under 1,200 sq. ft.  They make up for some of the lost square footage by creating inviting shared spaces and common amenities.  While cottage housing isn't for everyone. Those who do live in cottage housing developments enjoy the camaraderie of their neighbors.

One of the hurdles to cottage housing development is providing parking required by zoning codes.  The common areas on small lots can quickly become dominated by parking areas reducing the amount of land left over for landscaping and common areas. At the same time, Cottage housing developments because of their size and in city locations, tend to appeal to single occupant households, seniors, and those who use public transportation.  Wenatchee's proposed changes would also reduce the number of required parking spaces making cottage housing developments more viable.
Wenatchee Councilwoman Karen Rutherford said, “I would love to see one of these developments go in....I see this is as so important with the tight space we have in the city.”

Sunday, August 14

follow our blog and support the small house movement

Help us to help others by following and linking to our blog.  This will up our profile on the web and make our information more readily accessible.  Thank you, microhouse

Friday, August 12

fremont kitchen featured

Our fremont kitchen is the kitchen of the week on Houzz.com check it out.  The project embodies many of the philosophies that we at Microhouse incorporate into our small house designs.


kitchen of the week






















Our goal with this project was to come up with a design that would bridge the gap between the needs of a contemporary living and our 1920’s craftsman house.  The commonality that served as a departure point for me was the utilitarian nature inherent in both craftsman kitchens and modern design. For this reason I designed cabinets that emphasized clean lines, simple detailing and richness of reclaimed old growth fir.  I found the kitchen cabinet designs of famed famous architects Green and Green inspirational.

It is hard to describe the quality of sunlight in the Pacific Northwest but it is often muted, filtered by layers of clouds, and always precious.  For this reason the quantity and placement of windows was crucial. We concentrated the windows to the east and north enabling us to capture morning light and open out onto our patio and garden.  The small size of our house made the connection to the outside that much more important giving our kitchen an added expanse.  Rather than using above counter cabinets that would have limited the amount of windows, we created a “pantry wall” on the interior West wall.  This efficiently provides storage for bulk goods/ books and dishes.  We created another small group of open shelves adjacent to the refrigerator and adjacent to the dining room for every day plates and dishes. 

Using reclaimed materials was really important to us for many reasons not the least of which was sustainability.  The timeless quality of the old growth fir we used is apparent in its rich color and slight imperfections.  For the window construction we again used reclaimed fir for its straightness and durability.  The top sashes were obtained from local architectural salvage store. The bottom sashes built from fir and we went to great lengths to use reclaimed wavy glass which is particularly nice on the interior cabinet doors.  We also used reclaimed top nail oak flooring which enabled us to seamlessly match the new flooring areas with those of the existing house.  Where we didn’t use reclaimed materials like the granite counter tops we opted for durability. 

The kitchen table was created from a ships hatch that my father found on the beach way back in the 1960’s. It was fun to be able to incorporate this family relic into the design. The table frame was made from the fir studs taken from the wall that separated the original kitchen from the kitchen dining area.

The table is the focus of the kitchen.  It is a great place to idle away a rainy weekend morning with a cup of coffee watching the raindrops travel down the rain-chain just outside. Well at least it would be if we ever had idle mornings.  We built it to cabinet height so that it readily becomes an extra work surface. The person cooking usually sits on the stove side where it is easy to swivel between the stove and table.  


Friday, August 5

small house community - pine grove cottage housing

One of the most exciting things about cottage houses is that they embrace simplicity and connection to place and community.   By necessity, the focus is on the most important functions and qualities of a dwelling.  Clustered cottage housing developments provide us with the opportunity to re-imagine some of the best qualities of traditional villages.  As people seek to live more simple purposeful lives cottage houses and cottage housing developments have been enjoying increasing popularity.


At microhouse we are excited to begin the design of the nine-unit pine grove cottage housing project. These 550 sq. ft. mini houses will incorporate the all of the functions of a larger house including one bedroom, one bath, a kitchen/dining room, living room, formal entry, and large front porch.  Here the front porch will provide its traditional role as a nice place where people can interact with their neighbors.  While the clustering of these cottages around shared common spaces, including gardens and natural open space, will create opportunities for informal social interactions and chance meetings.


The pine grove cottages provide affordable model for future development. Efficiently meeting the needs of the residents will literally and figuratively reduce the developments footprint.  Clustering  development reduces building cost and infrastructure costs, reduces environmental impact and leaves more open space for natural plantings or gardens.