Started by DavidLeBlanc, February 19, 2005, 02:17:16 PM

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Looking over the "sonotube foundation" post and the "Victoria's ventillation" post and the project pages they point to, I'm struck by how much bigger Victoria's Cottage is in comparison to the Builder's Cottage.

IF I'm ever to build anything at all, I will need to make it as small as I think I can comfortably stand it (and worry about the very expensive mistake of making it too small - or too large). I may be able to shoe-horn what I want into the Builder's Cottage, but probably only if I employ a bit of expansion at key places - that's where the "bumps" (bump outs) come into play.

In a nutshell, what are their pros and cons?

Some idea of what I have in mind:

In this picture, notice the booth on the right - yum! The facing wall is the whole kitchen with a full bathroom behind it. Visible to the left is the sleeping alcove (furnished as an office in this building) with another, ladder-accessable, sleeping loft above the bathroom, the opening for which is visible above the kitchen wall. That's pretty much the entire cottage! Main room is 11'x16'

I even like the way it looks from the outside - imagine this is the end wall of a Builder's Cottage! ;)

Images are from http://www.rosschapin.com/Plans/Cottages/Backyard/backyard.html  , in particular, his "Backyard Cottage", which I'm in love with - except I fear it's too small! (and just a bit too "open plan" for my tastes) :( Even so, it's a wonderful little space, as are several of Mr. Chapin's other designs. Worth heading over to have a look, even if only for inspiration.


Yeah, I was surprised by how livable such a small space appears to be.

I have the same concerns about building too small and regretting it later versus building too big and getting bogged down... particularly as my building site will require carrying all the materials the last 100 ft or so over some very rough terrain.

The bumpouts look nice and do a great job of splitting one room into distinct spaces. On the down side, they may require large headers and they will definitely slow you down, compared to building a simple rectangle.

My own strategy is to try to come up with a plan that will allow me to start small but add on later, without resulting in too much wasted effort. Still working on it...



Nothing wrong with bump-outs to make a space appear larger or define the function.

But....this is way too small if you have stuff.  Don't know if this came from Chapin's web site or a coffee table book, but let's assume that the owner wanted it to look as good as possible.

Look at all that stuff!  Crammed and stacked everywhere.  Books, cooking supplies, mementos.  Everywhere!  Not a clear surface in sight.

Living in such a small space is not a problem.  Where do I put stuff is the problem.  Now, if you're the type who doesn't have stuff, you're OK.  

I also vote for designing something as small as you think that you can stand it...but with the addition designed and the header to bust through already there.
It's a dry heat.  Right.


Thought of something else.  You all might take a look at a book by Laura and Alex Sanchez.

Called Adobe Houses for Today...I know, I know.  But that's just a foundation and wall detail.  You might get some ideas.  They show small starter houses with suggested future additions.  Kitchens are designed for a larger house.  Show the same floorplans with several different elevations.

Might give you some ideas.
It's a dry heat.  Right.


The cottage pictured is from Chapin's site. It is one of a few his construction company built in a mini-subdivision, and I would not be surprised if it had been professionally dressed for the glam shots.

Having said that: yes, it is "stuffed"! ;) One of my design constraints is to make more room than I think I'll need for book storage. I own lots o' books, especially paperbacks. My next book purchases are going to have to be on house building (foundations, framing), trades (elec. plumb, etc.) and built-in furniture. I may never DIY building it, but I'd like to be either my own GC or at least a very sharp consumer! All depends on what I'm doing when the $ comes - if it comes at all. At some point I may have to just start paying as I go and get on with it! (Actually, if I had land, I'd be a lot more purposeful... if I only had land!

Thanks for the tip on the "adobe" book! :)


Without consulting John, would it be a fairly straightforward approach to extend a few of the floor joists out, say, two feet for a window seat/daybed? You'd need a header over the opening, of course. You could gain some valuable storage under the seat, too.

Seems like a relatively "easy" way to gain some valuable interior space. Is this a bad idea?


I think that's one common way to do it - extend and double the joists, but I can show you all sorts of older houses, one next door even, where the bump has started to sag away from the main structure and the joints have started to poen up.  Of course, by the time I'm in my 70's (estimated), the same might be said of me! ;) Of course, the one next door is a bay and not a "bump" (bays are cantilever by style, no?)

I, personally, would go with piers. or the same kind as would be under the rest of the construction if it's a new build.


Our last house was 100 years old with bays (which is what I guess I'm talking about) for two large corner window seats that still were as plumb and square as the rest of the house after all that time. Having said that, I don't know how they were framed in detail. One was even over a garage door below it:

I especially like the knee braces which I think are purely decorative on this house, but add a considerable amount of charm. On one of John's cottages that detail would be absent, perhaps, as the bay would be flush with the base of the building.

Now that I think about it, I guess I'm slightly curious how the original builders framed those two corners!


For tiny houses, go look at some travel trailers.  Gulfstream and Jayco (they all have sub-divisions) didn't in 2000 make my eyes water--a few brands still did.

Mine is, I think, better designed than built, but there's a curtain between the (front) bedroom and the rest, a door between the kitchen/dining room and bathroom.

The floorplans are on a funny page, so....

start here:

click floorplans on the left side--should open you a new window of "lights and travel series"  mine is the top right.

It would work if you were a) a minimalist and b) weren't doing things like collecting tools and furniture and kitchen stuff for a new house.

It IS wonderfully daylit.


QuoteBut....this is way too small if you have stuff.  Don't know if this came from Chapin's web site or a coffee table book, but let's assume that the owner wanted it to look as good as possible.

Look at all that stuff!  Crammed and stacked everywhere.  Books, cooking supplies, mementos.  Everywhere!  Not a clear surface in sight.
I took a closer look at the photos above, and I'm not 100% sure they where staged. For example, there's what looks like a pot holder on the coffee table and a file box wrapped in a black towel obscuring the stove in the corner.

I do tend to be a person who generates clutter that expands or contracts to fill all available space. Indeed, the potential for less clutter (and thus, a greater incentive to tidy it up) is part of the interest in living  once more in a small house: 9'x21' was it's size. It sure worked there:  and that, most emphatically, was too small!


A structural note on "Bumps" — They are actually quite easy to add to most floor plans. If the floor joists are spanning the same direction you want to go you can just extend them over the plate or outside wall doubling them at the sides. As a rule of thumb you can cantilever out 1/4 of the span of the joists.

When joists are going perpendicular to the pop out it must then be supported back into the wall with brackets. This is what is done with the "build it anywhere" pop out details included in the Universal Cottage plans http://www.jshow.com/y2k/listings/57.html.

Ross's cottage is what it looks like. That house is within walking distance of where I am typing this. (He's an ex office mate of mine.)

khalif Williams

I'm considering adding a "bump" to our 16x20 saltbox plan.  since it wouldn't be on a side of the house that I could extend the floor joists, could I extend the beams (pier foundations) in that section of the house and extend the floor out over that?  Instead of 16 ft sill beams there, i would use 20 footers so there would be a 4 foot cantilever.

Any problems with this?


K. Williams


will a plywood box beam be able to span the openings for the "bump outs"? if not whats the max distiance? :-/


Yes you can cantilever the girders with the same rule as the joists. For the opening of the bump out you have to have a header sized for the load coming down on that wall. Some of the larger plans such as the Universal cottage have a header chart for that size house.

There is a general header chart on page 28 of the Wagner book http://tinyurl.com/48nt3.


You're right Amanda - RVs and houseboats are an excellent source for small house ideas.  I had fun at the Dallas RV show over the weekend.  Love to see how they solve some of the "stuff" issues.  Another RV you didn't mention was the "toy box" type, which has living quarters, and then an attached "storage" space.  Those are interesting.

My plan for the Builder's Cottage is to add a 12" or so bay to the window over the day bed (for photos, books, candles, etc.) and then to add a door right next to the bathroom and put an armoire in front of it.  When and if expansion comes, the bedroom will go there (armoire moves to the bedroom).  Another change I plan is to put a sliding french door in the kitchen and then if and when expansion is needed there, to make it a wall opening, add a dining/kitchen/den expansion and re-use the sliding french door out to a porch.   I haven't modeled it yet, but I plan book shelves above the desk, above the bay and behind the sitting area (next to the wood stove).  I had also thought of putting in a fireplace where the front door is with bookshelves on either side.  The front door would move to where the wood stove is now.  Just some thoughts.  I have two bookshelves 4' wide by 8' tall, packed with books.  Gotta have room for them.