5 Mistakes NOT to make with Small House Plans

blueprint floorplan

Photo credit: Can Stock Photo Inc

So many small house plans to choose from; how do you decide?  Selecting the right floor plan for your small house is essential to the enjoyment of your new home.

Get this part right and you can enjoy your small house for years to come.  Get it wrong, and it can be a huge disappointment.

SmallHouseLife.com walks you through five of the more common floorplan mistakes and how to avoid them.  You want every square foot to flow, live large and be functional.

Small House Plans -  Mistake 1

Not enough planning and preparation.  You’re excited about building a new home and you dive right in there looking at all the cool floor plans without taking the time to drill down on the essential elements that will work for your family.  Yes, you’ve decided on the number of bedrooms or that you want an office, but have you stopped to consider exactly what your needs are?

Only once you determine the particular desires of your family, can you get a clear picture of which floor plan will work best for you.

My suggestion is to sit down with your spouse (if applicable!) .. and even the kids (if you have them!) and have everyone write down what they want in a house.   Separate bedrooms for the kids?  Office.. or two? Outdoor living space, big kitchen, little kitchen, quiet reading spot?  The list is endless, but it’s also unique to each family.  So take the time to write down everyone’s wish list.  You will have to trim the list, especially because you’re building a small house, but the important thing is to get it on paper.

TIP: Separate the needs from the wants. List what is non-negotiable and what can be scratched if necessary.

Small House Plans – Mistake 2

Not considering how rooms can perform double duty.
Once you’ve figured out what your small house plans wants/needs, you’ll want to start thinking about how you can get them all into your small floor plan.

Frank Betz Small Floor Plan

Frank Betz – Nickerson floor plan – 1627 sq. ft.

So you must have a formal dining room?  Uhhum.. ok, but can you also use that space as a card room or library?  Need a separate guest room so your guests can be comfy?  It could also be the place to go for your quiet reading (when guests aren’t occupying it.)


<< See the floor plan to your left?  We’ve built this house several times and lived in it once.  We used the ‘Dining Room’ as an office and put our huge 7 foot dining room table in the ‘Vaulted Breakfast’ area.  Our teenage daughter was in ‘Bedroom 3′ and my office and workout room were in the front ‘Bedroom 2′ for the morning sun.

Which actually brings up another very important point: How is the layout in relation to the sun? I built a house one time where the kitchen and breakfast room didn’t get a ray of morning sun. I just never thought about it at the time I picked the house plan. It bothered me till the day we sold because I love sunshine in the mornings.

Thinking of how rooms can perform double duty can actually be fun to consider.. And it is crucial to multi purpose space with small houses.  The key to optimum functionality is creative use of the space. This requires us to think outside the box of conventional room purposes.  We want the rooms in our new home to work beyond the ordinary!

Small House Plans -  Mistake 3

Not considering how the layout will ‘live.’  I’m going to stick with the floorplan in the picture here for illustration of this common mistake.

First let’s talk about what works in this plan.  We liked the layout of the split bedrooms because that segregated the spaces better than having all the bedrooms bunched together..  We also liked the open family, kitchen and breakfast areas because we are casual people.  And we liked the big Patio right off the Family room.

Now let’s discuss what did not work for us and how we changed the layout to ‘live’ right for our family.  This floorplan has one of my #1 pet peeves.  I cannot stand to have a straight view of a bathroom.  Notice how as you come into the Foyer, you can see right into the hall bath.  What we did was flip that bathroom as you see in this little picture. small bathroomSo from the foyer, we were then looking at a wall instead of the doorway to the small bath.. plus because the door opened the other way, even with the door open, you looked into a wall (inside the bath) instead of the commode and sink.

TIP: Turn the floor plan around that you’re considering and look at it from different angles. It helps give a different perspective.

Small House Plans -  Mistake 4

Selecting a small house plan that’s expensive to build.  Of course this only matters if you’re budget conscious, but if you’re thinking of small houses you probably care at least somewhat about cost.  And, what you save by using a simple small house design, you’ll have extra for some ‘must have’ perks like hardwood floors, a country sink or cool water feature.

I remember when I first started building.  I thought it was only about the square footage.  Keep the house small and it would be cheap, right?  Wrong!  LOL.. I had selected the cutest house you ever saw and it was only about 1400 square feet.  But here’s what made it expensive to build:  Lot’s of angles and cuts to the plan, fancy arched windows, lots of outdoor spaces which still cost money even though it’s not part of the interior square footage.


BTW, the floor plan we’re using for this illustration is relatively inexpensive to build.  It has a very simple, low roof line and fairly compact design.  Here are the areas that add to the cost: vaulted ceiling in the Family room, tray ceiling in the Master suite, the fireplace, and where you see ‘columns’ we made into bulky arches.

You’ll want some small house design extras but just be sensitive to the fact that every one of them costs extra financially.  So pick your spots wisely.
House for Sale

Small House Plans -  Mistake 5

Forgetting that you might want to sell one day.  I can’t tell you how many people I know who are living in their 2nd or 3rd ‘last home.’  Of course, you want to make it your own.  Part of the fun of building a custom home instead of buying a resale house, is that you get to put your design flair touches on it.

That said, I encourage you to strike a happy balance… just in case you do end up selling.

If you want a hot pink bathroom, by all means paint the walls pink and buy vibrant pink towels and accessories!  But I’d suggest the tile (floor and bathtub/shower) be a neutral cream or white.  You can still get the look you’re after without compromising future resale value.  And yes, you’re going to have to paint the pink walls a neutral color before you put the house on the market.

Say you’ve figured out you can be happy with two bedrooms.  If you’re building a tiny house or very small house (maybe less than 800 feet) that’s fine, but anything bigger and I’d probably squeeze a tiny third bedroom in there for optimum resale.  This kind of goes back to Mistake #2.. if you’re rethinking how to use rooms anyway, you can use that 3rd bedroom you don’t need for a sewing room or music retreat.