A Guide to Small House Plans

Sometimes smaller can be better, but if you are looking to downsize, a tiny house might be too small. That’s where small house plans come in. Whether you’re planning to rent, buy or build a house, a small house is likely your best bet if you’re looking to scale down. Popular with empty-nesters and smaller families, these houses afford all the benefits of a traditional freestanding home without the added maintenance of more square footage.

What Is a Small House?

Small houses are a popular option if you want more than a tiny house but less than a home that’s over 2,000 square feet. Most people who choose small houses do so because they’re less expensive and require less maintenance than other styles of houses. 

These small houses can come in a variety of styles and sizes, and — unlike many tiny houses — they are equipped with traditional bathrooms as well as access to grid-based electricity and water.

Small house plans are great if you are looking to buy a first home since they offer the benefits of a larger house without the inflated cost and upkeep. Usually, these houses cover one floor and offer one or two bedrooms and one bathroom. However, the interior floor plan can be customized to reduce the size of the rooms, so you can add more bedrooms or bathrooms. You can even add on extra rooms, such as offices or studies. 

What Is the Size of a Small House?

What Is the Size of a Small House?

Small houses are generally between 400 square feet and 1,000 square feet, though they can be larger as well, with some small homes being as large as 2,000 square feet. In contrast, the average size of a home built in the United States in 2017 was 2,571 square feet. A small house’s compact size makes them perfect for starter homes, as well as for homes in dense urban areas — particularly for building on narrower lots.

What Is the Difference Between a Tiny House and a Small House?

The biggest difference between these two styles of houses is the size. Tiny houses are generally 400 square feet or less, while small houses are bigger than 400 square feet. 

Some people consider tiny houses and small houses to be one and the same, but in actuality, there are some distinct differences. Aside from the size, small houses are meant to be permanent, stationary dwellings. Tiny houses can be — and often are — built on wheels, particularly for people who like to travel without leaving the comfort of home. Small houses are built on land and cannot be shifted.

Small houses also boast more living space than tiny houses, which is great for growing families or families with multiple children. 

5 Benefits of Living in a Small House


There are many obvious benefits to living in a small house, but if you’re unsure of the difference between a small house and a traditional, larger house — here are five benefits to living in a small house to consider before making your decision.

1. Environmentally Friendly

In general, small houses require less energy to function than larger spaces, which means you automatically create a small carbon footprint. Small houses have fewer square feet to heat and cool, which helps keep your energy costs down. Smaller houses also often only have a handful of occupants, so even things like water and electricity are reduced.

2. Space Without Clutter

One of the main reasons people choose to move to small houses is because there is less space for unnecessary possessions. Smaller houses force you to declutter your life and keep only the items that are the most useful and mean the most to you — but you don’t likely need to get rid of as much as you would with a tiny house.

A small house can be ideal for people with unique collections, such as books or coins. Because it is a smaller area, you inevitably have to pare down your belongings and prioritize what to keep, but you likely won’t have to choose between your entire collection and a piece of furniture, for example. 

3. Lower Maintenance

A smaller space means a smaller area to manage, both inside and out. You don’t need to spend hours cleaning or dragging a vacuum cleaner up and down several flights of stairs. The time it takes to clean your house can add up over the week, so why make it harder on yourself than you need to? Instead, enjoy the ease of living in a small, low-maintenance house.

The smaller area and the need to get rid of clutter also means there will be fewer things to clean or sort. When you have a lot of empty space, you naturally have the urge to fill it up with stuff – even if you don’t really need that stuff at all. In a smaller space, that temptation doesn’t have the opportunity to even manifest.

4. Easier to Sell

Ideally, you build your home to last you for your lifetime, but the future is uncertain, and you may find yourself needing to sell your house a few years down the road. Smaller homes are far more practical to live in for the average family, which means they will be far easier to sell than a sprawling villa, no matter how gorgeous the latter may be.

Similarly, a smaller home will also sell easier than a tiny house for the same reason of practicality. 

5. Saves Time and Money

By switching to a more minimalist life in your small house, you’ll likely find yourself having extra money and time. The extra money can be used for anything from calculated renovations to more leisure activities for the family. Additionally, since you won’t have the cleaning and upkeep that would be required with a large home, you might have extra time for hobbies, recreation and other activities you enjoy doing. 

Types of Small House Plans

Because there’s no specific style for small houses, you can build them in any architectural style you want. Some of the common styles that are known to mesh well in any environment include:

  • Ranch small house plans: Ideal for bungalows, ranch-style homes offer numerous opportunities in style and size. From a starter home without the trimmings to a lavish luxury home inspired by Mediterranean villas, ranch-style homes pride themselves on being unique and unlike other homes — even other ranch homes. Interiors for ranch small house plans are often open-concept, and many floor plans open out onto a rear deck or patio.
  • Craftsman small house plans: Popularized at the turn of the 20th century, the craftsman-style house embraces the design quirks of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The exterior boasts low-pitched roofs and tapered columns as well as covered front porches. Calling on nature for inspiration, the materials used for the house are commonly stucco, wood or brick. Inside, the house offers quaint accents, such as built-in shelving, window seats and large fireplaces.
  • Southern small house plans: With the often tropical-like climate of the South in mind, Southern-style houses focus on spacious and airy living areas. High ceilings and vast porches are common traits, while the exterior design relies heavily on neat symmetry, giving a Southern-style house a clean and classical look.
  • Cabin small house plans: Ranging from classic, rustic log houses to more modern cottages, cabin houses are ideal for vacation or secondary home, though many people are finding the benefits of using this style for their primary residence. The simple design of cabin houses makes them both easy to build and to maintain. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you may find yourself leaning toward this style more than others. 
  • Modern small house plans: Clean lines and simple architecture are the foundations of modern-style homes. This style is ideal for small homes since it also boasts minimalism with its uncluttered frontage that’s still bold and eyecatching. Meanwhile, the interiors are often spacious and come equipped with large windows to invite natural light in.
  • Traditional small house plans: One of the most commonly used floor plans, traditional-style homes continue to grow in popularity thanks to the fact that they are functional and, thus, timeless. Focusing less on architectural quirks and more on ensuring the house is satisfactory for the typical family, traditional-style houses are ideal if you are more interested in a comfortable home than an aesthetically pleasing one.

3 Example House Plans

3 Example House Plans

House floor plans cover a large swath of styles, and since there is no architectural style that is unique to small houses, it can be daunting to choose a house style to build.

Luckily, you can easily browse house plans by square footage, which makes finding the perfect small house plan that much easier. 

Here are three examples of small house plans that you can build into your dream house.

Ranch-Style House

Designed for practical living, this 1,277-square foot house features three bedrooms and two full bathrooms that are all spread around a single story to ensure optimal privacy for all occupants.

The wide-based foundation makes the house seem spacious and open while the open-concept kitchen and dining area, which connects to the great room, only emphasizes that feeling. The full kitchen also leads into a built-in utility room, and the great room boasts a large fireplace, making the entire space ideal for entertaining guests.

The main suite sits on one side of the house and includes an attached bathroom and walk-in closet. The remaining two bedrooms and the other bathroom sit on the opposite side of the house.

The front features a large porch that runs across the front of the house, while a smaller porch runs across the bulk of the rear of the house.

Craftsman-Style House

Covering 1,216 square feet, this three-bedroom house features two full bathrooms and an attached two-car garage. Simplicity and comfort are the trademarks of this house, which sits on one level and features modestly sized rooms and an open-concept kitchen, living and dining area.

The garage allows access to the house, as do the front porch and the back patio, making this home ideal for cozy nights inside or out. The exterior architecture is simple, with traditional gabled roofs and symmetrical doors and windows.

Southern-Style House

The wrap-around porch that envelopes this 1,225-square-foot house is its most prominent feature. Calling on the airy verandas of the South, the porch leads into the two-bedroom and two-bathroom house.

The open-concept layout of the house adds to its spacious feel, with a sprawling kitchen and living area taking up one side of the house, while the bedrooms take up the other.

The exterior also features the trademark pillars of Southern-style homes as well as gabled roofing with dormer windows. 

FAQ About Small Houses

When you’re planning to build your own house with prefabricated floor plans, you likely do a lot of research on the type of house you’re planning to build. Research probably brings about some questions, so here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about small houses.

Is a Small House Worth It?

The answer to this question is totally subjective since what is worthwhile to one person may not be so for another. The best thing to do if you’re wondering whether a small house is worth it for you is to ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • How much home can you afford: This is not just in terms of monetary value, but in terms of square footage as well. Can you handle the maintenance necessary for a house that’s more than 2,000 square feet?
  • How much space do you really need: More square footage doesn’t automatically translate to more useable space. Are you prone to collect things even if you don’t have any use for them? Will moving to a smaller house force you to reexamine the clutter in your life?
  • Do you really want a big house: Contrary to popular belief, a bigger house isn’t necessarily a better investment than a small house. As we mentioned earlier, small houses are more likely to sell better than other types of homes, so if you’re buying a property with the intent of increasing its resale value, you may want to look at smaller houses rather than large ones.

How Long Does a Small House Take to Build?

The short answer is that the average time it takes to build a house is about seven months

The longer answer is that the building time depends on several factors, including the size of the house, how complicated the design is, when in the year the building begins and even what the weather is like. 

What Is the Smallest House You Can Legally Build?

Dwellings of any sort are subject to regional zoning laws, which vary from place to place. 

Since the laws aren’t uniform, you’re better off contacting your local government and finding out the exact guidelines from them.

Find Your Dream House Plan at Cool House Plans

At Cool House Plans, we offer dozens of different floor plans for houses of all styles and sizes. Browse through our huge selection of house plans and start building your dream house today. We even offer customization and modification, so you can truly make your new house uniquely yours.

For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-482-0464.