In purchasing this original worker cottage the homeowners were strongly attracted to its history, urban location and the large trees in the backyard, a rarity in that stretch of the neighborhood.   In addition, the compact size fit perfectly with their sustainable goals.

Compact modern house concept rendering

The design for the renovation and addition weaves together the homeowner’s lifestyle and connection to nature, and thoughtfully considers their love of cooking and entertaining, the need for a full-time home office, and a desire to live compactly and use resources efficiently 

Compact modern house section drawings


The flow through the first floor and addition was conceptualized as a direct extension of the site topography that one navigates through a series of cascading levels; starting at the entry stair one enters up to the level of the main house, and back down through the kitchen, dining room and out to the back garden.

There is a green roof on the single-story addition that provides garden views from the second floor while reducing greenhouse emissions,  improving insulation,  lessening solar heat gain on the roof, and enhancing onsite stormwater management.

Compact modern house kitchen rendering
Compact modern house floor plans


This 1,600 square foot Somerville home has an efficient floor plan with a compact layout, and spaces are designed to serve multiple functions.

For example, the first floor guestroom is outfitted with a large sliding door so the room can be opened up and integrated with the rest of the first floor spaces, serving as a yoga studio and sitting area when there are no house guests.

Similarly, the entries to the second floor primary suite and second bedroom/office have large frameless pocket doors that can remain open to create a connected full floor suite, while still having the flexibility of closing off each room for greater privacy.


The idea of compact living is a natural extension of the homeowners’ embrace of sustainable design, and the design prioritizes the longevity of the home. The building systems and exterior envelope are designed to lower energy usage, and the materials are selected for their natural elements and durability. In addition to sustainable materials the house relies on solar, passive stack effect, and a green roof to reduce the carbon footprint and further enhance the overall design of the home.




PROJECT: 1,600 SF Single-Family residence, renovation + addition in Somerville
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Tripi Engineering Services, LLC
MEP ENGINEER: Air Water Energy Engineers, Inc

Compact modern house sustainable features diagram

Atelier et Alia
321 Walnut St #475
Newton, MA  02460


© 2023 Atelier et Alia

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