In a time when builders are re-evaluating the size and layout of floor plans, the SchoolStreet development in Libertyville, Ill., is perhaps one of the best testaments to Americans’ renewed desire for right-sized homes that eschew sprawling floor plans and wasted formal spaces in favor of flexible, comfortable layouts amid community-oriented, walkable neighborhoods.
Situated on School Street adjacent to downtown Libertyville, Ill., the 26 closely spaced single-family homes bring a Front Porch Revival approach to suburban living, with a New Urban-inspired pedestrian-friendly streetscape and easy access to shopping, community activities, and commuter rail.
“We thought it was the perfect opportunity to do something different in the suburbs,” says developer John McLinden. And buyers responded: 21 of the 26 sites have already sold.
The Bungalow- and Craftsman-inspired facades pay homage to the town’s history and complement the project’s inspiration—the historic but vacant Central School, which will be converted into 15 lofts.
Eight different elevations ensure a varied but compatible streetscape while eight interior floor plan options offer a variety of layout options to allow buyers to customize their homes to suit their needs. “It’s more important to let the customer shape the house,” McLinden explains. Home buyers are able to identify how rooms will be used and work with the developer to customize and plan for how the interior layout can suit those lifestyles.
The project’s vision of community, flex space, and right-sizing caught the attention of architect Sarah Susanka, who signed on to create an additional home design for the community that incorporates many of the principles she promotes in her Not So Big House series of books and presentations.
“Part of the reason I was interested in the project is it’s not just any old design--there’s a real beauty to these houses” says Susanka, also pointing to the value the developer has placed on design and its understanding that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
Susanka’s floor plan, unveiled Feb. 9, is designed so that every space is used every day and is void of underused formal rooms, instead emphasizing the role of flexible space. “How do we allow this house to morph as different needs appear,” she poses. For example, the library alcove can become a formal dining area for those few times a year it’s needed; an “away room” provides quiet escape next door to the community areas, but also can function as a guest room. Buyer education on the front end helps showcase how spaces can be transformed, expanded, and reimagined as needed.
With the narrow lots focusing outdoor living to the street, Susanka placed the home’s kitchen and informal eating area adjacent to the front porch to provide an easy flow from inside to out. “One point I make to audiences is that if we want to have a Front Porch Revival, it’s not just a matter of adding a front porch, but situating the living space close enough that you want to go out there,” she explains.
Susanka’s design, which can be reproduced for up to four of the 26 SchoolStreet houses, will be built initially as a show home that will be open to the public for tours for six months following completion.
For renderings of Susanka’s design and the SchoolStreet development, click on the slide show above.
Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.