No Lot Too Challenging: 13 Ingenious Odd-Shaped Houses
The lot purchased by a homeowner might be seemingly impossible - clinging to a sheer cliff, squeezing into tight spaces, or consisting of an odd geometric shape - but by god, architects will find a solution. Whether by building up from a postage-stamp-sized property, zig-zagging a house between its neighbors or designing a home in the shape of a giant X, architecture firms have found ways to use seemingly undesirable spaces, leading to some very unusual and imaginative residences.
How do you build a house on a sheer cliff that has views on every side, but still feels private, and is virtually invisible from the street? Cadaval & Solá-Morales architects created a two-story, X-shaped residence that clings to the cliff, with the roof functioning as a driveway and terrace. Each side of the home's edge gets its own sweeping view of Barcelona without facing any of the neighbors. Incisions at the top and bottom of the 'X' let in light while maintaining that privacy.
The Seattle Spite House was built on a pie-shaped piece of land adjacent to a larger home, and gets so narrow at one end that it's hard to open the oven door all the way. The story goes that it was built in 1925 out of spite because the tiny, odd-shaped lot was all that was given to a wife in a contentious divorce, and she was determined to make the most of it.
The longest side of the triangular home, at fifteen feet across, faces the street, so passersby might not even notice that there's anything unusual about it. As narrow as it might be, it's surprisingly spacious at 830 square feet, comparable to other bungalows in the neighborhood. A buyer snapped it up for $397,000 in October 2013.
Ultra-Compact House on 313-Square-Foot Lot
As narrow as a single-wide trailer, this house by Mizuishi Architect Atelier packs quite a bit of function into a two-story space that still manages to leave room for a parking spot and tiny garden on a 313-square-foot lot. The inside feels bright and airy thanks to high ceilings and large windows.
Homes Built for Oddly Shaped Lots
How architects design bespoke homes for lots that are tiny, oddly shaped or steeply sloped
Nancy and William Fertig's Rhode Island property had everything they'd envisioned in a summer vacation home--waterfront views just a two-hour drive from their main home in Connecticut. But it also had a big drawback: the lot was a small, and shaped like a triangular wedge.
Their architect, David Andreozzi, and project manager, Dave Rizzolo, decided to embrace the quirky shape and designed a fan-shaped home that took advantage of the views. "We kind of decided, we're not going to fight it," says Ms. Fertig, who is in her late 50s. She describes her home as "the shape of a pizza after you've taken the first bite." The tall, angular, three-story house has an inverted layout, with bedrooms on the lower level and living space on the second floor and a master suite on the top floor. The 4,000-square-foot home, which has tiered balconies on the waterfront, cost about $2.5 million to design and build.
Not ones to back down from a challenge, architects are taking oddly shaped waterfront parcels, precarious cliff-side properties and tiny lots wedged into dense, urban neighborhoods and designing bespoke homes that are fun and functional. Homeowners know that, sometimes, buying a quirky lot may be the only way to get their desired location. But potential challenges loom as well, such as hard-to-furnish trapezoidal rooms and, more important, the home's resale value when it's time to move on.
Five years ago, Asheville, N.C.-based architects Elihu Siegman and Michael Silverman were hired by a New Jersey-based client to design a vacation home in North Carolina on a steeply sloped mountainside lot. Though the property was an expansive 5 acres overall, local ordinances limited the buildable area to just 15% of the total lot size. To create a home with ample square footage, Mr. Siegman decided to build a long, rectangular living space that cantilevers over the steep slope. In the cantilevered portion, "you're living above the footprint," he explained. The home's garage was built into the hillside.
He dubbed the home the Aleph House, after a letter in the Hebrew alphabet the intersecting design resembles. "Building in the mountains, there are a lot of challenges. But this home was several degrees more difficult than a typical lot," says Mr. Siegman, whose client declined to comment.
Going after an unusual lot can also be a way to take advantage of a property others might overlook. Connie Klema, a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer who also develops and rehabs homes, built on a tiny piece of land adjacent to a freeway on-ramp--the byproduct of a highway expansion in 2001. Located in the popular Italian Village neighborhood that is known for its hip restaurants, art galleries and boutiques, the lot was just 25 feet deep at its narrowest point. Ms. Klema says she figured out a way to squeeze three single-family homes onto the sliver.
The first home, completed in 2012, has 1,700 square feet over three stories. There's a two-car garage with a car lift on the lower level and a roof deck above. Designed by architects at Lincoln Street Studio in Columbus, the home's minimalist exterior is made primarily of brick, cement board, masonry block and thick glass for soundproofing. The height gives the two-bedroom home the look of a tall, skinny apartment building and allows for downtown views from the top two floors and the roof deck.
John Galvin, a 51-year-old branding and experience design consultant who lived nearby, says he noticed the building's unusual shape while watching its construction. He paid $375,000 for the home shortly after it hit the market. "We affectionately call it the totem. It draws a lot of attention," he says. "To me, I look at it as being charming." Plus, he adds, the stairs keep him in good shape. Ms. Klema says the second, larger home she's building on the same parcel has just been completed and is on the market for $640,000. "I feel like they're the coolest places in the neighborhood," says Ms. Klema. "And because of their uniqueness, they are priced comparably to other homes" despite the quirky lot.
Jonathan Miller, of New York-based appraisal company Miller Samuel, says homes on oddly shaped lots that veer from the conventional look of a neighborhood aren't always an easy sell--and may even cut into the bottom line. "There's a haircut associated with something that is irregular," he says. Still, with a creative or striking design, "the shortcoming of a property can be leveraged into the marketing," he says.
Some architects say that designing buildings on unusual sites can provide the kind of creative spark they may not find on more traditional projects. "Sometimes, it's actually easier to design with a lot of restrictions," says Mr. Rizzolo, who worked on the Fertigs' Rhode Island vacation home. The constraints can provide direction, and an excuse to experiment with uncommon shapes and forms.
Another home in Asheville, NC that was built on an oddly shaped lot is on Waynesville Avenue. It was just sold by our Amanda Boren, REALTOR!
One last one to mention is still on the market! 60 Madison Avenue - Amanda Boren, REALTOR is the listing agent and she said: "The original home was torn down and the new one had to be planned and modified to fit the lot and its set backs. It was a very small footprint to put a home on."
Check out the builder's website: Green Earth Developments and see some other green homes they have built in the video below!