How to you maximize space while creating a traditional Southern home? We've got the answers here.
When Atlanta architect Brandon Ingram was tasked with designing a small cottage 30 minutes outside Tallahassee, Florida, he knew it needed to be two things: "extremely efficient and super Southern." Extremely efficient because this is the second building on the property and county laws mandated that it be no more than 800 square feet. And super Southern because of its setting, a bucolic 17 1/2 acres of land studded with live oak, pine, and magnolia trees, perfect for afternoons spent on breezy porches. Brandon Ingram designed three similar small house plans just for you! Visit houseplans.southernliving.com to find your new cottage.
To manage the home's tiny footprint, Ingram was meticulous with scale. "When designing little homes, you run the risk of them looking like playhouses unless you take the proportions really seriously," he says. So he played to a grander scale wherever he could, including the size of the windows and the front-and-center positioning of the porch. From there, it was a matter of adding classic Southern details—a blue porch ceiling, a metal roof, and lap siding. For inspiration, Ingram looked to both local history and examples from across the South. "We wanted this house to be an imaginative interpretation of several varieties of historical precedent," he says, noting influential sources such as the iconic porches of Charleston, South Carolina, and old plantations. "We called on the whole spectrum of Southern architecture to create our own ideal for this property, but it's the porches that immediately say this is a Southern home." Take a look at how Ingram melded modern efficiencies with old Southern charm.
Prettiest Porch on the Block
In keeping with Southern traditions, Ingram opted for a "haint blue" ceiling. He used Waterscape by Sherwin-Williams there and complemented it with a soft gray (Samovar Silver by Sherwin-Williams) on the floor. He left the porch unscreened to allow for maximum sunlight. "No matter how good the screen is, it will always cast at least a little bit of shade. Here, I wanted the shadows and the sunlight to play on the front," he says.
Living Space With Room to Entertain
Inside, he knew the bedrooms and baths had to be a certain size, so he got creative with compromise in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. "You immediately start asking what can overlap," Ingram says. In this case, an open space allows the living, dining, and cooking areas to flow seamlessly into one another.
All interior walls are shiplap, painted the same white (Benjamin Moore's Swiss Coffee) to open up the space and play to the abundance of textures in the room. "When you have an area like this, the all-white palette helps the corners of the rooms disappear," Ingram says. The same antique brick from the exterior frames the fireplace, while reclaimed-pine floors add even more patina.
Ingram wanted to keep the woodwork humble in such a small space but gave the mantel slightly elevated detail. He used butted boards on the ceiling to add another layer of age to the main room. "I love the subtle texture and character that wood ceilings provide," he says. Plus, he notes the boards will expand and contract slightly over time, which will add to the effect. He wanted to keep the woodwork humble in such a small space but gave the mantel slightly elevated detail.
Fab and Functional Kitchen
Pushing the classically styled white cabinets and soapstone countertops along the walls maxes out floorspace in the tiny cooking area and meshes well with the rest of the living room's decor. Glass-front upper cabinets offer a more refined (and nearly as airy) option than traditional open shelving that is typically found in rural kitchens. A shiplap backsplash and old-timey louvered shutters reference Southern farmhouses. An antique pine dining table sits snugly in the kitchen and doubles as a food-prep station.
Smart cabinetry in the kitchen marries form and function. Modern eyesore appliances—refrigerator, dishwasher, laundry machines—and even a fully stocked bar are hidden behind paneled doors, allowing the home to feel both older and uncluttered.
Let There Be Lots of Natural Light
The windows—3.5 by 7 feet—sit slightly larger than your average window. Ingram says this strategically helps flood the compact bedrooms with plenty of natural light to keep them feeling airy and bright. (And show off that much more of the pastoral surroundings.) Simple shutters are a compact, clean-lined, and old-school alternative to heavy window treatments.
Simple and Symmetrical Design
The two bedrooms flank either side of the house and are separated by the common areas, maximizing guest privacy. Simple textiles and symmetrical furnishings prevent the small guest room from feeling cluttered.
Clever Places for Antiques
An antique mirror gets a second act fronting a recessed medicine cabinet in the bathrooms. The rich colors stands out against the white walls, making it a statement piece.
Designed for Gathering
Out back, another porch holds its own as additional living space, outfitted with wicker furniture and a dresser for storage. "Porches have really become destinations," Ingram says. "They are their own rooms, not just extensions of other rooms." The ceiling and floor match those on the front porch, but he went ahead and screened in this space. "I tend to think that back porches are always a little more casual and, therefore, lend themselves more to being screened in," he says.
Choose Materials that Build Character
Ingram says an important element in achieving this historic look was the use of antique brick for the home's front walkway, foundation piers, and back patio, which masons laid in an imperfect pattern for added character. A metal roof nods to the rural architecture of the area, but smooth shiplap in the gable gives a dressier contrast to the rest of the exterior's layered lap siding.