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Small House Style is a web magazine dedicated to all things small house & home, prefab, sustainable, design, architecture and modern.

David Sarti’s 800 square feet in Seattle

I was on the west coast recently so I decided to see what the Small House scene was like. I came across architect David Sarti’s house in Seattle on Future House Now. It was also featured in a Seattle Times article by Dean Stahl a few years ago. The photos are by Benjamin Benschneider. More Northwest small houses to come…

Sarti House in Seattle at dusk

Just shy of 800 square feet, this house, sited in the backyard of a Central District home, was built for just under $200 a square foot including the price of the land. The Central District is a residential neighborhood in Seattle located east of Cherry Hill, west of Madrona and Leschi, south of Capitol Hill, and north of Rainier Valley. It is dominated by large lots with older single-family homes and much of it is zoned multi-family. Sarti bought someone’s backyard for $35,000 and built his house there for about $180,000.

Sarti House in Seattle at dusk

Mod and affordable.

This house is pretty simple compared to the Wingardhs Mill House. The ceilings are 14-feet tall in the living room. There are sparse furnishings, lightly colored walls and honey-toned wood accents that create a sense of expansiveness. The ground floor is one open room containing a living room and kitchen; a half bath is near a side entry on the ground floor as well. The open staircase in the living room leads past a storage area on the way up to a master bedroom, a guest bedroom/office and a full bathroom.

Sarti House in Seattle groundfloor

Sarti hired a builder and took the better part of a year off to frame, sheath, side and roof. Once enclosed, he did much of the finish work himself. From cabinets to a kitchen island on wheels that slides under a counter to double as a breakfast bar. Minus the doors, the materials are mass-produced, affordable and practical. Plastic-laminate sheeting, modified expanded polystyrene foam (MPS) flooring upstairs, vinyl tile, aluminum windows and fiber-cement panels.

Despite all the custom touches, his costs were less than $200 a square foot, including land, mainly because he did much of the work himself and served as his own contractor.

There you go, do much of the work yourself and your small house doesn’t have to cost $300 or $400 a square foot.

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12 Responses

  1. tejas says:

    hey there…

    i am a civil engineering student of CEPT Uni. in (city) ahmedabad, (state) gujarat, (country) india. YOU have done a grate job. as a home owner the cost aspect is the biggest issue for them. Your house is the biggest example of money saving. in india such kind of designs will beautiful responce from middel class group of people, who wants to have their own house but the money factor affects them a lot.

    once again magnificent work

    sorry for some spelling mistakes

    good luck

  2. Kevin Koo says:

    My compliments and thanks to the webmaster for putting up this review. This house has a great design — I can’t believe that it’s just over 800 square feet. The design of the house is quite unusual, and I have no doubt that it really sparkles. In my country, it may be possible to find cheap houses, but there is no guarantee to the quality of the building. Many buildings are approved but a few years down the road you may see water leaking through the ceiling. In any case, I have digressed — this 800 sq. ft. design is really good, and I wouldnt mind making one of these myself. (If only I could take “the better part of a year” off!)

  3. Nilan says:

    I saw your house is on the your web site, looks really cool. i would appricate if you could send me the layout of this house.

    Nilan
    Sri Lanka

  4. Stephanie Anders says:

    Since when is $215,000 for a house affordable? What planet does he live on? And why would you build something with no land around it? Why would you build in a style that is out of place with the rest of the neighborhood? Where are the local building/zoning laws that lets him build up to the property line?

    I also don’t care for the wasted space throughout. What does it cost to heat/cool the house?

    I think the owner has clearly missed the point of small house living.

  5. Stephanie, I think you miss the point here. No one can argue that the vast majority of the small house community are the more outdoorsy type. Most people are looking to go rural to built tiny, off-the-grid homes. You have to realize that your vision of the tiny home (and admittedly the vision of most people in the tiny home movement) isn’t going to match everyone else’s.

    Believe me for where he built $210,000 total is a steal for a new single family home. Most people envision buying a $20,000 lot (if that) out in the sticks and putting a $20,000-$40,000 house on it, but that’s not going to work for everyone. Seattle has amazing public transit. Building a house like that could eliminate one’s need for a car altogether. There are always trade-offs; rural and cheap with a huge commute if you work in the city or urban and comparatively more expensive (yet extremely cheap for the location) with little to no commute. I, personally, happen to also be part of the latter group.

    I applaud Mr. Sarti for doing the most with what he had. Not everyone wants a super dense home especially when living in a rather dense urban area. Open spaces and soaring ceilings are perfect in just that scenario. I can’t say I would have done the same thing, but I now find myself purchasing an urban in-fill lot and looking at his design very closely.

    He didn’t miss the point of small home living, he’s just coming at it from a different angle. Sparse rather than condensed. Cavernous rather than confined. Minimalism rather than having every square inch of the house “do” something.

    He’s done a good deal toward getting exposure for small house living whether you like his place or not and his home represents an evolution of the small home for urban areas where they will undoubtedly become a more frequent occurrence.

    • Kimdane says:

      Well said; this “Tiny Home” movement is gaining considerable steam and coupled with the “off the grid” folks it’s very exciting and I am researching now as part of my final paper for my MBA on the best economical design that would incorporate Solar/wind, minimalist design. It has been quite difficult to come up with a design that could house two people comfortable for under $50K. However, the buyer would have to do some of the labor. I’d be grateful for any advice – The goal of my project: To produce a home under 800 sq ft for $50k with at least 300watt Solar and/or wind energy, rain water collection/grey water system. Your input will be given recognition in the footnotes of the research paper. Please send any links and resources.

  6. island time says:

    I bought a lot on the Big Island of Hawaii and built a small 1,000 sq ft house for a lot less than he spent on that square box in someone’s backyard! I’m out doorsy as someone suggested of people who like small houses. I would rather be outside than inside! It’s beautiful and fresh out there! His $200 a sq ft is ridiculous! That can get a whole lot more in a better place!

  7. WIll says:

    Great design! I am currently looking at building a house in central london on a plot about the same size if not a bit smaller. Watch out for my design in years to come! I expect to pay approximately £150-£200k (or about $300 psf) for the build with a total value following completion to be about £400k.

    For those who say this is not affordable or realistic – I say come to London and check out the ridiculous cost of housing! There will be no outdoors space as there is no room on the plot for it (or perhaps space for a small patio in a weird nook!).

  8. Kimdane says:

    Well said; this “Tiny Home” movement is gaining considerable steam and coupled with the “off the grid” folks it’s very exciting and I am researching now as part of my final paper for my MBA on the best economical design that would incorporate Solar/wind, minimalist design. It has been quite difficult to come up with a design that could house two people comfortable for under $50K. However, the buyer would have to do some of the labor. I’d be grateful for any advice – The goal of my project: To produce a home under 800 sq ft for $50k with at least 300watt Solar and/or wind energy, rain water collection/grey water system. Your input will be given recognition in the footnotes of the research paper. Please send any links and resources.

  9. David says:

    Wow, thats a lot of money, 180k for a 800sq home, it makes no since. Have u seen tha 100k home? I. Live in denver where u can get a bangalow around 80210-80209 for 200k or more of 800sq, rather have a bangalow

  10. pballer says:

    People who say this is expensive do not live in areas of the country or world that have high real estate prices.

    in teh SF bay area for example in the city of berkeley they are selling 500 sq foot condos for $350,000.

    If there are high paying jobs and a nice climate like the west coast, you can not relate to the prices coming frmo denver or the midwest.

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