Home Designs for Outdoor Living on Small Lots

The process of developing new neighborhoods involves many critical considerations. With rising land and construction costs, smaller lots are becoming a necessity. At the same time, the desire for outdoor living spaces has increased since the pandemic.

Frankly, designing detached single-family homes on lots as narrow as 30 feet is really difficult; including spacious and private outdoor living areas make this an even bigger challenge. Homeowners are looking for a place to relax, entertain and enjoy some privacy – lack of privacy being the biggest stigma associated with high density neighborhoods.

When carefully designed floor plans include thoughtful and exciting outdoor spaces, many homeowners realize that living on a tight lot in a high-density neighborhood can actually be more private and functional, with less maintenance, than living on a tight lot. they would never have thought possible.


Bungalows in Bellaterra

PATTERN: Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning[email protected], 925.251.7200

DIMENSIONS: Width: 104 feet / Depth: 111 feet / Living area: 910 sf to 1,999 sf

Bellaterra is the residential component of a two-phase development plan for a mixed-use, walkable community in Los Gatos, California. Of the 253 homes, which also include apartments and townhouses, 76 individual bungalows (see main image above) offer footprints ranging from 910 to 1,999 square feet, with open floor plans for a life with one, two or three floors. The bungalows are arranged in garden clusters to maximize density without sacrificing outdoor livability.

The full development will include seniors-only housing and a vibrant commercial component, offering walkable services, restaurants and grocery stores. Bellaterra’s mix of housing typologies creates opportunities for downsizing buyers, young professionals and small families looking for spacious open plans, flexible spaces, private outdoor spaces, community gardens and parklets.

A The garden groups place the garages along a rear driveway, while the entrance gates face paseos, creating a pedestrian community with a pedestrian quality

B Interlocking lot layout allows four of the seven plans to include courtyards, providing a direct and private connection to the outdoors without sacrificing the development’s target density

VS The courtyards function as an extension of the compact houses, creating a sense of space, with strategically placed windows and glass doors opening up to the outdoor living areas (see below)

Outdoor side yard living in the Dahlin Group design for Bellaterra bungalows
Side Yard, Bungalows in Bellaterra, designed by Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning / Photo: Jeffrey Aron

The cottages

DESIGNATE: Seth Hart, DTJ design[email protected], 303.443.7533

DIMENSIONS: Width: 30 to 38 feet / Depth: 100 feet / Living area: 1,500 sf to 1,800 sf

These cottages on small lots were designed with the goal of providing a variety of outdoor living opportunities.

Large porches face the street and encourage community engagement, and corner lots provide extra width, allowing for large wrap-around porches. The garages are detached to create generous backyards between the house and the garage.

Each home has a one-car garage with additional storage, and the garages are paired to minimize wasted space between structures, while allowing for a more open feel and landscape opportunities along the driveway. .

Floor plan for small lot living at The Cottages designed by DTJ Design

A Single-car detached detached garages create a more open feel in backyards

B Wrap-around front porches on corner units promote outdoor street living and encourage social connectedness

VS The backyards maintain a free dimension of 14 feet at the narrowest place to ensure usability

D Generous covered porches enrich the street scene and anchor outdoor living

Exterior view of the exterior living spaces of the Cottages designed by DTJ Design

Solana – Map 4

DESIGNATE: Jeff Addison, Kevin L. Crook Architect[email protected], 949.660.1587,

DIMENSIONS: Width: 32 feet / Depth: 38 feet / Living area: 1,801 sf

One of the challenges of higher-density single-family homes is creating usable outdoor private living spaces. This 1,801 square foot detached group plan is laid out centrally with a courtyard for reciprocal use.

The kitchen, dining room, and living areas are oriented to the outdoor living space, and these common indoor spaces also face the side yard (see below), bringing additional natural light into the home.

Side yard at Solana Plan 4 designed by Kevin L. Crook Architect

The adjacent house establishes a private, windowless border and serves as the backdrop to the generous 10ft x 22ft outdoor living area – a true outdoor room that can be set up for barbecuing, entertaining and relaxing.

Undesirable but functional living essentials such as the air conditioning condenser and the screened waste storage area are located at the far edges of the yard.

Floor plan for Solana Plan 4 designed by Kevin L. Crook Architect

A Outdoor living space

B side yard

VS Kitchen

D To eat

E Outward-facing living space

F Adjacent house

g Waste storage and gate access

Outdoor living space at Solana Plan 4 designed by Kevin L. Crook Architect

Open courtyard

ARCHITECT: Donald F. Evans, AIA, The Evans Group[email protected], 407.650.8770

DIMENSIONS: Width: 40 feet / Depth: 90 feet / Living area: 2,250 square feet

Small lots usually mean little to no privacy, especially for outdoor spaces. The perfect solution is the backyard plan. With almost every room in the house opening onto this space, the courtyard provides daylight and controlled views without worrying about window or door coverings.

This space can be a garden with a fountain, a hot tub or a swimming pool and a fenced veranda with covered and uncovered spaces.

The 40-foot-wide house lives much larger than its dimensions, with an open floor plan, separate bedroom layout, and separate cabana that provides space for flexible use, perfect for beginners, downsized people and vacationers.

Floor plan for the Courtyard Open Concept small lot home design by The Evans Group

A The central courtyard allows multiple uses, screened or not, covered and open

B The open floor plan provides natural light and views of the courtyards and backyards and makes the house much larger than its pictures indicate.

VS Cabana offers a private entrance and direct access to the central courtyard

D The owner’s suite and great room’s private patio provides space for more intimate outdoor living

Rendering of the front elevation of the Courtyard open concept small lot home designed by The Evans Group