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Tiny Houses and Architect Lester Walker

by Dan Gregory last modified Jan 04, 2012 04:20 AM
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by Dan Gregory last modified Dec 01, 2010

Announcing new exclusive plans by architect Lester walker, who specializes in very small homes and vernacular-inspired farmhouses. Continue reading →



Small Is The New Big

It’s a special pleasure to welcome architect and teacher Lester Walker into our Exclusive Studio. His Tiny Panelized Cottage (Plan 510-1) is particularly relevant for today’s economy because it’s compact (at about 250 square feet), efficient, and full of character.

The gabled micro cottage is essentially one room for living, dining, and

cooking (including an enclosed corner bathroom) opening to a screened porch, which can be used as a summer living room. A ladder leads to a sleeping loft over the kitchen. The design would work as a starter home, cabin, or even an in-law/guest house for the backyard.

Another favorite architectural type for Walker is the American farmhouse, as shown in his White Traditional Farmhouse (Plan 510-2),

which updates historical examples with a two-car garage and more open and contemporary layout that combines, kitchen, breakfast area, and home office.

The master suite is on the upper floor

and includes a study that is accessible both from the master bedroom and the hall (no dead-end rooms!).

A variation is his Very Small Farmhouse (Plan 510-3), shown below,

which has a storybook look with its simple porch, front gable, and double hung windows — easy to imagine at the edge of a cornfield or down a country lane.

The 1,000 square-foot plan is simplicity itself — a wide open main living area and kitchen; the bedrooms are upstairs.

Walker is the author of several influential architecture books including the indispensable classic American Shelter: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Home (Overlook Press).

It describes building methods and the characteristic features of architectural styles. I keep a copy by my desk. For example, the illustration below explains how a modern prefab is put together (courtesy Lloyd Alter on Treehugger).

The late great architect/educator  Charles Moore called it ” a genuine feast for the eyes and mind” — and I agree. Equally useful — and delightful — is Tiny Tiny Houses: Or How To Get Away From It All (Overlook Press), where Walker explores the world of living small –  from Thoreau’s cabin beside Walden Pond to a contemporary dune shack. (Image below courtesy Apartment Therapy).

Detailed perspective drawings explain how a wide variety of fascinating diminutive — even Lilliputian– structures are constructed. Two of my favorites are the historic 196 square- foot Sunday house  in Fredericksburg, Texas and the so-called “1950s Ranch”  in Virginia that’s  a mere 109 square feet — I guess it’s not a rambler but a squisher!  The book uncovers a treasure trove of historical and contemporary architectural novelties from across the country.

I admire Lester Walker’s ability to combine practical building expertise with an understanding of and enthusiasm for the diversity of architectural history. As he says: “Creating a home is a multi-faceted experience that borrows from the past, studies the present, and imagines the future. If owner, architect, and builder remain open-minded and resilient during the design and construction process, the result will be personal, comfortable, and exciting.” Well said. Welcome, Professor!




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