Odd lots inspire unusual home-building solutions

Design work on small or oddly shaped lots can spark more creativity than traditional projects

Jul.July 05, 2015 01:00 PM

A home in South Florida under construction.

Designing and building new homes on lots that are small or oddly shaped is challenging. But buyers are finding home sweet home everywhere from steep mountainsides to urban nooks near freeways.

William and Nancy Fertig, for example, spent $2.5 million to design and build a three-story home on a triangular waterfront lot.  Ms. Fertig describes the architecture of the home with tiered waterfront balconies as “a pizza after you’ve taken a first bite.” The 4,000-square-foot home has bedrooms on the lower level, living space on the second floor, and a top-floor master suite.

Sometimes settling for an imperfect lot is the only way to build a new home in a desirable location. For example, two architects in Asheville, North Carolina, Elihu Siegman and Michael Silverman, designed a vacation home in North Carolina on a steep, mountainside location.

The mountainside lot is five acres, but the buildable area is only 15 percent of the total lot, under local ordinances. As a result, the home has a cantilevered rectangular living space that overlooks the steep slope, perched above the lot’s footprint.

Connie Kleman, a lawyer and developer in Columbus, Ohio, found a way to build three single-family homes on a small parcel next to an on-ramp for a freeway. The first home built there is a 1,700-square-foot, three-story residence that resembles a slender apartment building. Views of the downtown skyline can be seen from the second and third floors and the roof deck.

Some architects say design work for unusual locations can spark greater creativity than traditional projects. Consider, for example, 10 Sullivan, a condo building under construction in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, a 16-story structure designed with curved glass walls in the front. The site is a wedge of land that measures 20 feet wide in front and 100 feet wide in back.

Construction of 10 Sullivan is scheduled to be done in November, and the building already is 80 percent sold, at unit prices ranging from $2.5 million to $45 million. [WSJ]Mike Seemuth

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