Designed and built by Louisiana State University Architecture School students, this contemporary Habitat for Humanity house in Baton Rouge breaks the organization's typical mold. “We were hoping they would think outside the Habitat box,” says Mark Montgomery, AIA, a volunteer general contractor on the house and principal of Montgomery & Waggenspack Architects in Baton Rouge.

“We looked at Japanese architecture and how it handles space,” says LSU grad Erica Royalty, now an intern at Post Architects in Baton Rouge. “We focused on making the communal spaces more inviting.” To fit the narrow lot, the students gave the 1,111-square-foot house a side entry and created a courtyard and play area. An open floor plan encourages gatherings; a galley kitchen offers easy circulation. The students speced polycarbonate walls to bring light into the kitchen, and they installed vinyl siding vertically for a contemporary look on the exterior.

“I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I first saw the drawings,” Montgomery says. “I was worried that it wouldn't fit the neighborhood. But [the neighbors] love it.” The three-bedroom, two-bath house cost a mere $55,000 to build.