And it can improve your quality of life—really!

By Ellen McGauley

The house plan (SL-1986) we used for this year’s Idea House in Habersham, South Carolina, can be purchased here. Keep scrolling to see the plans drawn up by architectural designer Eric Moser. Plus, find out how a smaller house can make you happier and which materials are best for building along the coast.

First floor plan
Moser Design Group
Second floor plan
Moser Design Group

Smaller House, Bigger Win

How building less than 3,000 square feet can improve your quality of life

Stronger Indoor/Outdoor Connection
The allure of the outdoors is why we live at the coast, and smaller houses offer more access. Not only is it easier to incorporate views from nearly every window, but a modest footprint allows for more room on the lot for outdoor spaces like porches, decks, and even covered living and dining areas.

Better Bottom Line
"Every room should pay for itself in everyday use," says builder Allen Patterson. "You want to channel your resources— design, furnishings, maintenance—into the spaces that you will spend time in often, rather than deplete them on ones you won't."

More Natural Ventilation
Houses that are a single room deep are easier to cool. Front and rear porches create shade for the interior rooms, and breezes can easily pass through the house.

Key Coastal Materials

Patterson shares his musts for building in the Lowcountry

Marsh-Friendly Pavers
Permeable concrete pavers in the courtyard and driveway ensure stormwater is absorbed into the ground and doesn't run into the marsh. "These wetlands are full of so much marine life—shrimp, crab, red-fish, just to name a few—and we have to prevent freshwater and dirt from disrupting that ecosystem. It's the heart of why we live here, so we do everything we can to protect it."

A Heat-Reflective Roof
The metal roof recalls the sheet metal or slate roofs used in 19th-century cottages, and is also useful in reflecting heat—a key energy saver during hot summers. "Plus, it's designed to be very resistant to wind in hurricanes."

Weatherproof Siding, Decking, and Trim
Cement-board siding and capped polymer porch boards look like wood, but are completely resistant to mold, mildew, and other moisture damage. "Synthetic wood materials have come a long way—now, even in this harsh, humid climate, they're bulletproof. They stay in great condition."

Energy-Efficient Windows
"These windows are framed in synthetic wood, which doesn't require annual maintenance the way traditional wood cladding did," notes Patterson. Plus, he adds, the UV-protected, Argon-filled glass improves energy efficiency by decreasing the amount of solar heat and air that gets through. And overhead, solar-powered skylights send in sunlight and filter in fresh air. "The more air and light you can get without using energy, the better."