With the ongoing trend of smaller lot sizes and smaller homes—and the need to modernize existing housing stock to meet demand—architects are finding new ways to expand living areas by making indoor-outdoor connections a focal point.
Whether it’s a new build or a renovation, incorporating moving glass walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and outdoor areas that seamlessly connect to the main living spaces make a home feel larger. Creating outdoor rooms with seating, fireplaces, or even kitchens adds functional square footage for daily living.
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When architect Michael Gooden started designing a house on a small, wedge-shaped lot in Dallas, Texas, he looked at how to give the homeowners the most living space for their square-footage.
“The site is small, so we had to take advantage of every inch of it,” Gooden says. “There’s not really a backyard because the site tapers down to this really narrow wedge in the back. This allowed us to have this basic L-shaped house, and we tucked this small, linear pool in the side. We have a 15-foot by 10-foot multi-slide door that just pockets away, and it’s a really neat connection. It really does feel like it brings the pool inside. It makes the house feel a lot bigger than it actually is, when you’re able to take that outdoor space as a living area.”
Multi-slide doors and bi-fold doors create an easy transition between indoor and outdoor living spaces for a smooth flow from one area to another. Moving glass walls allow for a visual connection when closed, but can stack, pocket, or fold to open entire walls.
With a focus on direct connections to the outdoors, architect Steve Hoiles of Surfside Projects has been redesigning homes in Southern California to take advantage of the natural climate. Even in homes situated on smaller lots, the use of abundant floor-to-ceiling glass lets in sunlight and fresh air and makes the spaces feel expansive. “These doors are important to our pragmatic design approach to modernism, blurring indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly for the inhabitants,” Hoiles says.
Of course, using glass and natural light to make smaller living spaces feel spacious is not a new approach. When renovating one of Joseph Eichler’s classic Mid-Century Modern homes in San Mateo, California, architect Dennis Budd capitalized on the connection to the outdoors that Eichler’s homes are famous for, while modernizing the home.
“The wow was already there,” Budd said of the San Mateo project. “The question was how do we keep that wow while following seismic regulations.”
The answer was to modernize the home’s aluminum windows and doors with the latest versions from Western Window Systems, maintaining the look and feel while meeting California’s stringent energy and building codes. But for Budd, it wasn’t just about keeping the classic style, it was about creating a timeless, comfortable home.
“This home is not just a pretty jewel box like the photos show,” Budd said. “The family actually lives in the house.”