When Atlanta architect Brandon Ingram was tasked with designing a small cottage 30 minutes outside of Tallahassee, Florida, he knew he needed two things: “ultra-efficient and ultra-Southern.” Ta. This is his second building on the property, and county code requires him to be no more than 800 square feet, so it’s very efficient. And it’s very southern in its environment. The idyllic 17 1/2 acres dotted with live oaks, pines, and magnolia trees are perfect for afternoons spent on the breezy porch. Brandon Ingram has designed three similar small house plans just for you. Visit houseplans.southernliving.com to find your new cottage. Before you go, read our 10 tips on how to make the most of the space in your dreamy little tropical cottage.
Leave the front porch uncovered to maximize sunlight exposure
In keeping with Southern tradition, Ingram chose a “hate blue” ceiling. He used Sherwin-Williams Waterscape there and complemented it with a soft gray (Sherwin-Williams Samovar Silver) on the floor. He left the balcony uncovered to maximize sunlight. “No matter how good the screen is, there’s always going to be at least a little bit of shadow. Here we wanted to bring the shadows and the sunlight to the forefront,” he said.
Create an inviting and open entertainment space
Inside, we knew the bedrooms and bathrooms needed some size, so we got creative and made compromises in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. “Immediately start asking what could be duplicates,” Ingram says. In this case, the open space allows the living, dining, and cooking areas to flow seamlessly into each other.
All interior walls are shiplap and painted the same white (Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee) to open up the space and enjoy the rich textures in the interior. “If you have an area like this, a bright white palette will make the corners of the room less noticeable,” says Ingram. The same antique brick as the outside surrounds the fireplace, and reclaimed pine floors add even more patina.
Ingram wanted to keep the woodwork modest in such a small space, but gave the mantel a slightly higher detail. He added an extra layer of period to the main room by using butt boards on the ceiling. “I love the subtle texture and character that a wood ceiling brings,” he said. Additionally, he noted that the board will expand and contract slightly over time, making the impact even more significant.
Choose an upper cabinet with a glass front
Classic-style white cabinetry and soapstone countertops along the walls maximize floor space for a small cooking area and blend well with the rest of the living room’s decor. Glass-fronted upper cabinets offer a more sophisticated (and almost equally airy) option than the traditional open shelving often found in country kitchens. A shiplap backsplash and old-fashioned louvered shutters are reminiscent of southern farmhouses. An antique pine dining table sits perfectly in the kitchen and doubles as a meal prep station.
Hide appliances behind cabinets
Smart kitchen cabinetry combines form and function. Modern unsightly appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and even a fully stocked bar are hidden behind paneled doors, giving the home an old but orderly appearance.
Get lots of natural light
The windows are 3.5 by 7 feet, which is slightly larger than the average window. Ingram said this allows plenty of natural light into the strategically compact bedroom, keeping it airy and bright. (And show off more of your idyllic surroundings.) Simple shutters are compact, clean-lined, and an old-fashioned alternative to heavy window treatments.
Adopt a simple design
The two bedrooms are located on either side of the house and separated by a common area, ensuring maximum privacy for guests. Simple textiles and symmetrical furniture keep small rooms from looking cluttered.
Thinking about smart places for antiques
An antique mirror makes a second appearance in front of a recessed medicine cabinet in the bathroom. The rich colors stand out against the white wall, making it a statement piece. Candelabra bring instant warmth to this space.
Choose materials to build your character
Ingram said a key element in achieving this historic look was the use of antique brick for the house’s front walkway, foundation piers and backyard patio, with the masonry adding character. It states that the bricks were laid in a perfect pattern. The metal roof is reminiscent of the area’s rural architecture, while the smooth shiplap on the gables provides a dressy contrast to the rest of the exterior’s layered lap siding.
Design a space to gather
To the rear is another small porch that stands alone as an additional living space and is equipped with wicker furniture and a dresser for storage. “The porch has really become a destination,” Ingram said. “Each is its own room, rather than an extension of the others.” The ceiling and floor match those on the front porch, but he purposefully screened in this space. “Back porches are always a little more casual, so I tend to think they’re easier to judge,” he says.
Get inspired from the south
To manage the home’s small footprint, Ingram paid close attention to scale. “When designing a tiny house, you have to take proportion seriously or you run the risk of looking like a playhouse,” he says. There he played on the grandest possible scale, including the size of the windows and the front and center position of the porch. From there, it was a matter of adding classic Southern details like a blue porch ceiling, metal roof, and lap siding.
For inspiration, Ingram looked to both local history and examples from across the South. “We wanted this house to be an imaginative interpretation of a variety of historical precedents,” he says, adding that seminal references such as Charleston, South Carolina’s iconic porch and old plantations I cited the source. “We enlisted all the disciplines of Southern architecture to create a unique ideal for this property, but the porch is the one thing that immediately tells you this is a Southern home.” See how they combine it with old southern charm.