(Pictured here: The Corten Cottage)
Jan 12, 2015 -- Growing up in NC, architect Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, of Chapel Hill, NC, saw a problem: The mobile homes scattered or clumped together across North Carolina filled a great need for small housing options but they had no design integrity, they were usually made of poor materials, and she couldn’t see how they contributed to their owners’ quality of life.
“I had friends who lived in mobile homes. When I visited, I saw how dark most of them were and I could tell the air quality was terrible even as a kid. Most are still made with products that give off formaldehyde.”
Right out of architecture school, Schechter bought and renovated a tiny mill house in Hillsborough. “It was 850 square feet, built in the early 1900’s. I took out a few strategic walls and put in a huge south facing window that lit up the whole house.” Schechter says. “I felt like a queen in that little house! After renovation it felt brighter and more open than houses many times it’s size. I put money into details that made a difference like better materials. That house taught me a lot about what a small house could be.”
So a few years ago she began working on a solution -- or rather, many solutions – that she is finally introducing to the public.
She calls them Micropolis Houses -- a collection of Modern “tiny home” plans she’s designed that range from 150 to 1500 square feet and can be customized to meet specific buyers' needs and preferences.
Extra-small homes are growing more popular every year, as The Huffington Post, ABC News, Dwell and other media sources have been reporting.
“There are so many reasons for building small,” Schechter said. “Small houses are less expensive to build and they dramatically reduce homeowners’ property taxes. They’re easier and cheaper to heat, cool, and maintain, and they use fewer natural resources so they’re inherently more sustainable. And small houses let you focus on quality – in building materials and interior finishes and furnishings – rather than quantity.”
Schechter also notes how much easier it can be to achieve Net Zero – when a building produces all the energy it needs -- with a Micropolis® house. “Net Zero is the best goal for new buildings, although it is not a code requirement yet. Right now it’s up to the client, but who wouldn’t want the option of not having a power bill?”
“And I believe small houses will be easier to resell down the road because of the downsizing trend."
Micropolis Houses should also appeal to another market segment: people who were looking for something between the standard builder-designed home plans market and full architectural services. “I noticed there are quite a few traditional tiny house companies but very few Modernist options,” Schechter said. “I hope these might be an option for people who want a very modern small house but might not have the budget for traditional full architectural services.”
Architect-designed house plans that can be purchased by the public have historic precedence. At the turn of the 19th century, Gustav Stickley made his well-designed small houses available to the mass market by publishing them in his magazine, The Craftsman. Frank Lloyd Wright created a reproducible house design for middle-class families that he called “Usonian.”
“Micropolis Houses are not for hoarders, though,” explains Schechter. “I put as much storage in each one as I can, but they require a paring down which many of us Americans are not used to.”
At present, Schechter’s Micropolis Houses are only available by appointment with the architect. (She hopes to have a full section of her website devoted to Micropolis Houses soon to allow online ordering.) The plans come in full downloadable PDF sets that can then be printed at a copy shop, or blueprint sets with an additional fee for shipping. The PDF sets range from $1500 to $6500 based on the size of the house. Extra customization fees will be based on the scope of the changes.
About Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA:
Arielle Condoret Schechter, AIA, is a licensed, registered architect based in Chapel Hill, NC, who specializes in Modernist, energy-efficient buildings of all types and sizes, especially houses. She admits that she is “obsessed with light,” which drives her designs more than any other single element. Her firm also offers interior and lighting design, and custom furniture and fixtures. She attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Juilliard School of Music, and NC State University’s College of Design. She lives with her husband, Arnie Schechter, and an assortment of foster animals in a Modern, energy-efficient house she designed. For more information: www.acsarchitect.com.