Lean little Pinwheel House meets brand in Portland, Ore.

It’s tiny. It’s perfect. And designing the small backyard residence to meet the city’s building restrictions would have scared the less determined.

Yet architect Scott Mooney and his wife Lauren Shumaker, a construction engineer, rose to the challenge by creating their family home – dubbed the Pinwheel House – in Portland, Ore.

Known as an accessory dwelling unit, the structure’s design is part of Portland’s plan to create more housing on the property of existing homes.

The residence could not exceed 624 square feet. “We embraced this limitation by finding ways to break out of the floor plan by nesting furniture in wall storage, using pocket doors, using apartment-sized appliances and fixtures, and focusing our energy on the quality – as opposed to the quantity – of the space,” says Mooney.

The house has a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom, as well as inventive storage. A small attic, in the vaulted ceiling of the living room, accommodates overnight guests and has an opening skylight to provide natural light and ventilation.

Pinwheel House, completed in 2017, cost just over $200,000 (US) and took a year and a half to design and build.

Apartment-sized appliances and maximum storage space in the streamlined kitchen.

Scott Mooney, lead designer on the project at Bora Architecture and Interiors in Portland, answers a few questions about his home:

Why the name Pinwheel House?

It is derived from the rotational quality of rectangular floor plans, with all glass doors, sliders, and large window openings grouped and aligned (at the corners) of each facade as they scroll outside the building.

Inventive and invisible, cupboards and shelves are organized in "storage blocks."

Tell us about your storage “blocks”.

In order to maximize the openness and flexibility of our space, all fixed functional elements such as shelves, storage, counters and cupboards are consolidated and grouped into “blocks” at the ends of each room. These blocks are expressed and accessible from both the interior and exterior, with the spaces between the forms creating the voids in which we have placed larger windows and glazed entrances into the house.

"The limited amount of storage also gives us a big push to

What were the building restrictions and how did you get around them?

According to Portland’s zoning code, the maximum size of an ADU cannot exceed 75% of the main structure’s living area (or more than two units in a duplex), or 800 square feet, whichever is less. high. Since the existing house on our property was only 864 square feet, the size of Pinwheel House was limited to (a maximum of) 648 square feet.

How did you enhance the space in your home?

Over the past year we have added a large cover above the outdoor area, next to the large slider in the living room. This allowed us to extend the time we were able to exploit in the indoor-outdoor living space further into the rainy season.

High-efficiency wood-clad fiberglass windows were used throughout the home.

What were the biggest challenges in designing and building Pinwheel House?

With the overall square footage of the home being limited to 624 square feet or less, it left very little room for error from a buildability standpoint. This meant that every fixture, every fixture, every detail had to be scrutinized to make sure everything fit “just like that”.

How do you like to live there?

We live in the house and have no regrets moving into the space. What we appreciate the most is the quality of daylight and the strong indoor-outdoor connections you get throughout the space.

The limited amount of storage also gives us a big push to keep it simple in terms of the amount of stuff we accumulate over time.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to The Star. Contact her at [email protected]


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