1,200-square-foot house on a 1,000-square-foot lot?

By November 12, 2017 General Studies

A little bit of Amsterdam accents this narrow house in San Diego. At its widest point, the 1,200-square-foot house measures a scant 14 feet. Its slender shape and practical details like the hoist on the top-level deck were inspired in part by houses along the canals of that Dutch city.

To create a contemporary house and a sense of open space on the 1,000-squarefoot lot, the architect had to resort to a number of design tricks. A 3-foot-high retaining wall that runs around the front and one side of the house follows the property line. The wall provides a planting bed and gives the illusion that the 3-story house is just 2-1/2 stories tall.

This deception in ehight is important. Even though the bottom floor starts at street level, it qualifies as a basement–the low wall and planting area constitute a kind of urban earth berm. Thus the architect didn’t have to include a space-gobbling second stairwell, which would have been required by building codes if the house had been designated as three full stories.

On the street level are a garage, entry, guest bedroom, and bath. To help control noise and further the illusion that the house is shorter, lower portions of house, walls have only a few small windows. The open living, dining, and kitchen areas and another bath occupy the second floor. Up top, the master bedroom has a deck with a view toward the ocean.

Galvanized steel railing surrounds the deck, but for wind control and privacy from the street, the owners added a band of green canvas that’s held in place with twisting grommet locks called “common-sense fastners.”

Designer was Jim Galvin of Comstock, Galvin, and Cristilli Architects, for Pam and John Donnelley.

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