small wonders

February 20th 2014 Comments: 5 Topics: , ,

One of the great things about our profession is that we receive invitations to design projects of all sizes.
The ingredients of any abode are basically the same – shelter, living, sleeping, bathing. Sometimes the bowl we mix them in is considerable – oftentimes it’s small. A commenter on a recent post requested I spotlight a few of our more diminutive concoctions. I’m happy to oblige.
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This house is located in the bucolic West End neighborhood of Aspen. Adjacent to downtown Aspen, the West End district is composed primarily of narrow lots which once housed modest “miner’s cabins”. Over time, many of these humble cabins have been leveled to make way for more modern dwellings. This Victorian inspired cottage is probably one of our narrowest- at its widest point it’s a mere 24 feet. Given the stringent restrictions of land use in Aspen, available square footage is severely limited by the city. Although this certainly holds back the designer’s hand in terms of space, the end result is a miniaturized scale maintaing the charm and quaintness of the area. This little gem comes to a total of less than 2,000 square feet of heated space above grade.


Cindy Smith, an interior designer in Charlotte North Carolina had been searching for years for a lot in in the tony area of Meyers Park. As often happens in popular neighborhoods, property was difficult to come by. She finally stumbled upon someone who offered to sell her a portion of their rear yard. This street-facing property, a whopping 60 feet wide, held much promise in the imaginations of us like-minded designers. Unburdened by the needs of suburban garages and mudrooms, Cindy envisioned an urban French townhouse with a gravel motor court delivering you right up to the oversized front door. Upon entering this 38-foot-wide placard of a house, one traverses along the length of a two story light-filled side gallery which serves as circulation and dining – proving that even small packages can be a host for great drama.


The previous examples were certainly made small by site limitations. This cabin, on the other hand, had vast property at its disposal; its needs were merely modest. A weekend house situated on a gentleman’s farm, this minute dwelling serves up humble comforts but offers them regally. Nestled beside a lake in a soft-spoken manner, this little lodge sought to elevate simple camping to new heights.

Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley


  1. Victoria says:

    I absolutely love the Charlotte, NC home. Its architecture and interiors are perfect. You and this talented interior design Cindy Smith, created a lovely collaboration.

  2. Carmella says:

    This one is so timely as I’m in the middle of a small cabin design. I’ve always had an affinity for small spaces, and especially small spaces that live large. These certainly do. It’s always a pleasure to visit your blog. Thank you for sharing all that you do. Your craft with words is just as beautiful as your craft with design.

  3. Susan Nelson says:

    As always, beautifully done.

  4. Lauren Burton says:

    What is the painted shiplap style horizontal siding made of? Does applying it without a lap require a special rain shield?

    • Lauren:
      The material is cedar and no special rain shield is required since there is indeed a lap. It’s internal to the junction of the boards and appears flush when installed.

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