In this economy, you hear the word "downsize" a lot. And that word tends to have a negative connotation, invoking dreary images of yard sales, moving vans and trading in a 5,000-square-foot home for a shotgun shack or basement apartment.
But living in a small space doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, designers, architects and homeowners are finding ways of making the most out of a small amount of space, getting the most bang for their buck, if you will.
When we heard that Rice Design Alliance's 2009 home tour focused on small houses, we went knocking on their door to find out how people live in a sub-1000-square-foot environment. It turns out, they can live quite well.
Here are six of the coolest, smallest homes in Houston. Some of these are, in fact, larger than 1,000 square feet, but they're still a far cry from that 6,000-square-foot luxury mansion.
6. 5011 Blossom Street
This 1,600-square-foot home was finished in 2008 and designed by Nonya Grenader. It includes a two-car garage, a studio, storage space on the ground floor and an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom dwelling on the second floor. South orientation (toward the lawn), a one-room depth, an aluminum awning that shades the casement windows and the raised living floor make this small house seem much larger than its size.
5. Shot Trot House, 4914 Curtin Street
This one-story (plus attic loft), 1,250-square-foot wood-framed house was designed by Brett Zamore Design in 2004. It's been published in Dwell, Time, Metropolis and Karrie Jacobs's book The Perfect $100,000 House.
4. 614 Columbia Street
The ground floor of this 1,950-square-foot home is divided between a two-car garage and a single space containing the sitting room, dining room and -- screened by a central, mango-colored partition -- a rear-facing galley kitchen. It was designed by Carlos Jimenez Design Studio and completed in 2001.
3. 5910 Grace Lane
This house was designed by m+a architecture studio and is 900 square feet in size. It was built in 2006 and designed as a two-story, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house with a one-car garage. m+a uses this house as their architectural studio; they use the garage as their fabricating workshop.
2. 1302 Knox Street
Architect Monica Savino designed this two-story, 800-square-foot home and garage, which was built in 2004. It was built to be flexible, and a third floor may be added.
1. Forty-eight Foot House, 1851 Lexington Street
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So named because it measures 48 by 24 feet, this live-work house contains an architecture studio in a 600-square-foot space on the ground floor next to a two-car carport and a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom family residence on the second floor. It was finished in 2006 and was designed by Interloop A/D.