Medshouse Home Improvement effective design strategie for small modern homes

effective design strategie for small modern homes

An Open Floor Plan

In smaller homes you want the house to still feel spacious and comfortable. An open floor plan makes a small footprint feel larger than it is. When designing small spaces, consider opening up rooms to one another. The volume of all the areas is perceived as one large space, feeling more spacious. Opening up the floor plan not only improves the flow between spaces, it also lets you enjoy borrowed light and views from other spaces and the outdoors. You might be able to see views to the outdoors or enjoy daylighting from multiple sides of the house through other spaces. You also save money on the cost of the labor and materials of building walls.


  • Consider eliminating interior walls between the kitchen and dining or living spaces.
  • Consider a mezzanine or double height space open to above.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Open floor plan
[Asserbo House By Christensen & Co Architects. Photo by Adam Mark.]
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Open floor plan
[Loughloughan Barn by McGarry-Moon Architects. Photo courtesy of McGarry-Moon Architects.]

Multipurpose spaces, functions, and furniture

By eliminating interior walls, as is the case with an open floor plan, adjacencies between spaces become more fluid and blurred. This allows greater flexibility in space usage now and in the future. You can combine functions and even rooms to make spaces serve more than just one use. Similarly, furniture can be multi-purpose and act as space dividers. Successful small house designs have efficient floor plans, eliminating wasted space and costly circulation space.


  • Consider combining the bathroom and the laundry room. The laundry appliances could be hidden behind doors concealed from view. This strategy not only saves spaces, it also minimizes plumbing piping between appliances.
  • The office could also be the guest bedroom with a couch that folds out into a bed or a Murphy bed that folds into the wall.
  • Instead of having a desk and a table, consider having one piece of furniture that can act as both, or consider a built-in.
  • Eliminate hallways altogether by combining circulation with other spaces or consider making the hallway act as the “library” with built-in shelving or bookshelves.
  • Consider using architectural features such as stairs or casework to provide the separation between spaces instead of full height walls that feel closed off.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Multipurpose spaces

[Texas Farmhouse by Royce Flournoy & Patrick Ousey. Photo by Ryann Ford.]

Borrowed space

With a smaller house, you should look for any way possible to recoup wasted square footage. Be mindful of opportunities to borrow space from other areas and the exterior.


  • Wasted space under enclosed stairs could be used for storage or have built-in shelving.
  • If you have spaces where the roof cuts through a room creating a low ceiling, use this space for furniture or shelving.
  • An awkward nook in the living room could be a perfect place for a small office desk.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Multipurpose spaces
[Island Bay House by WireDog Architecture. Photo ByPaul McCredie.]

Vaulted or high ceilings

One impactful idea to make a small room look and feel bigger is to raise the ceiling. High ceilings can make small spaces seem more spacious and light-filled. White or light colored walls and ceiling further help light illuminate the space. Higher ceilings also provide the opportunity to introduce a loft space to increase the amount of usable space.


  • Consider a modern shed roof with clerestories to provide more light and ventilation in the space.
  • Consider a vaulted cathedral ceiling to give a welcoming lift to the space.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - High ceilings
[Kennel Copenagle House by Small House Lab. Photo by Aaron Leitz.]
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - High Ceilings & Connection to the Outdoors
[Berkshire House by Framework Architecture. Photo by Guillermo Cano.]

2. Connect With The Outdoors

Design for natural daylighting & views to the exterior

Spaces with ample natural daylight feel more spacious and inviting (and are oftentimes more energy efficient). Orienting the home, its spaces, and its windows while being mindful of the sun paths helps with this. Using windows, window walls, interior windows, skylights, and clerestories open up spaces and elicit the feeling of being more spacious. If the windows are well-placed, a small house doesn’t feel constrained because it connects with nature.


  • Locate windows to capture views of the surrounding landscape – the field, the garden, the mountains, and the sky.
  • Consider a skylight or small window in the bathroom to let light in while still maintaining privacy.
  • Consider adding glass lites to interior doors or transom windows above them to channel daylight and views deeper into the small spaces.
  • Add a ribbon window above or below kitchen cabinets to brighten up the space.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Connection to the Outdoors
[Hut on Sleds by Crosson Clarke Carnachan. Photo by Jackie Meiring.]

Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Connection to the Outdoors

[Loblolly House by Kieran Timberlake. Photo by Peter Aaron.]

Create Outdoor Spaces

One of the best ways to gain space in small homes is by extending the living space outside of the home’s footprint. Blurring the interior and exterior with habitable exterior spaces can make your house feel bigger. Large patio doors that enable you to flow effortlessly from indoors to an exterior deck, porch, or seating area significantly expand your living area.


  • Consider a deck with seating, grilling, or a fire pit for entertaining and living.
  • Consider creating an exterior contemplation area or relaxing private oasis area to recharge.
  • Create an enclosed screened in porch that can be used more times during the year than just summer.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Connection to the Outdoors

[Island Bay House by WireDog Architecture. Photo By Paul McCredie.]

3. Design Simple, Minimalistic, & Uncluttered Spaces

Consistent Design Aesthetic

An effective strategy for small house interior designs is a minimalist design. Successful small modern houses lend themselves well to simple, clean designs that let spaces breathe. A simple material palette with a minimalist design and detailing can go a long way to making the spaces feel welcoming. Keep to a singular design aesthetic and be consistent with materials and colors (a few accent colors are OK) to make the spaces feel connected and expansive.Ideas:

  • If you have knick-knacks that you’re attached to, consider only displaying a few at a time and rotating them every so often.
  • Consider using a few materials and stick to them throughout all the spaces, with a few accent materials where warranted.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Minimalist design
[Casa LLP by Alventosa Morelle Architects. Photo courtesy of Alventosa Morelle Architects.]
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Connection to the Outdoors
[Leachachan Barn by Rural Design Architects. Photo by Nigel Rigden.]

Get Organized

Busy, cluttered spaces feel overwhelming and cramped. This feeling is exacerbated by small spaces so try to keep the spaces clutter and distraction-free. Living in a small space frees you from excess consumerism and clutter. It forces you to simplify your life and makes you really conscious of your purchases. Go through your things and decide if you actually use them. Remember: space is valuable and precious in your home. Donate, sell or get rid of items you don’t need. For the rest, organize and store them out of sight or make the storage look good. Look for strategies to carve out spaces in your rooms for storage or built-ins.


  • To reduce closet space, only keep seasonal things in your closet and drawers. For the offseason items, store away in the attic or basement.
  • Consider built-in casework with door fronts. This way you can store your stuff hidden away and maintain a clean look in the room.
Design Strategies for Small Modern Homes - Get organized
[Innercity Downsize House by Steffen Welsch Architects. Photo courtesy of Steffen Welsch Architects.]

Lasting Thoughts

The key to designing a small modern house effectively is to keep the architecture and details simple and the spaces as open as possible, both in terms of natural light and clutter. It’s important to examine how much space you really need and use, and then, to optimize the design accordingly. A design professional can help make suggestions on how to better optimize spaces and functions within your home to help achieve the same goals with less square footage.

Living in a smaller home is a personal and lifestyle preference. It can afford you a simpler life – spending less time and money to build, to clean, and to maintain over the years and freeing you up to spend more time doing the things you love. Making the decision to build a smaller home takes careful consideration and must be weighed against your programmatic needs, wants, and goals for the project. if your goals don’t align with this lifestyle choice, you may regret it later.

But for those of you who enjoy the simpler lifestyle, you would very much appreciate the benefits of what a compact home affords you.

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