Neighbors Replace Parking Spaces with Small and Beautiful 'Loft Houses'

This intriguing urban infill project has two neighbors working together to replace their parking spaces with conjoined tiny homes.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect living room

Katherine Lu

In many cities that are experiencing steady growth, the land available for new construction is becoming increasingly scarce – resulting in higher housing prices and urban sprawl. One possible solution to this complex problem is using what's known as an urban infill strategy, where under-utilized land is developed and remade into housing. We've seen it done in places like New Orleans, London, and Tokyo, where overlooked and vacant urban lots (and other unusual spaces like rooftops) are redeveloped into affordable housing. The idea is to "fill in" these underused, residual spaces, and to enliven communities and densify cities in a sustainable way.

In Sydney, Australia, architect Brad Swartz helped two neighbors replace their rear parking spaces into two small one-bedroom houses, each with a similar, mirrored layout. The intention is to rent them out or to use them as accommodation for visiting family and friends. We get an in-depth tour of one of the buildings via Never Too Small:

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect exterior
The fronts of the two main houses. Katherine Lu

As Swartz tells us:

"The project’s brief was to replace parking spaces with accommodation. By its very nature of encouraging density (done well) – whilst giving up a car in the process – made this a more sustainable scheme. Additionally, the design maximizes the use of cross-ventilation, external shading devices over the skylights, and a concrete slab for thermal mass to help keep the house’s cool in summer. In winter, the houses can be closed up, and the small footprint easily heated up."

Looking at them from the outside, one sees that the two small houses – each with a footprint of 376 square feet – sit side-by-side on a quiet, suburban street just outside of the city center. The aim of the Loft Houses x 2 is to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood – from the height of the roof, down to the cladding material, and the barn-like aesthetic.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect rear
Katherine Lu

Here's the view of the entrance to one of the loft houses, which is located in the facade.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect entrance
Katherine Lu

This small but space-efficient house is laid out in a way that maximizes space. For instance, the ground floor contains the living room, dining room, a courtyard at the back, and a series of multifunctional cabinets along one wall, which contain the kitchen and integrated appliances (like a space-saving, stacked dishwasher and oven), plus storage, laundry equipment, and an entertainment center – all hidden behind the cabinetry to reduce the perception of clutter.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect kitchen laundry television
Katherine Lu

In addition, this same zone on the edge also contains the stairs going up, and the bathroom above. To accommodate all this into one zone, the depth of the kitchen counter and cabinets has been thickened to 39 inches deep (1 meter). The strategy here seems to be condensing all these functions into one area of the house, thus freeing up more usable floor space for other things, such as larger living and dining rooms.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect living and dining room
Katherine Lu

The openness of the space is emphasized with a ceiling detail that is inspired by the lightweight space framing of industrial warehouses, which help to increase the ceiling height further.

Framed by large sliding glass doors, the courtyard at the rear of the houses acts as light wells that bring natural light in, while also providing a place to grow greenery, to bring that bit of nature inside.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect courtyard
Katherine Lu

Upstairs, the bedroom is located on an open mezzanine. Lots of little details have been implemented here to increase the feeling of openness, such as angling the loft's balusters so that they seem like they are spaced more widely apart, as well as beveling the corner of the wardrobe to open up the desk area.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect bedroom
Katherine Lu

The bathroom includes a toilet and shower, and is contained in its own frosted glass enclosure, which permits light to come in without the need for a window.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect bathroom
Katherine Lu 

Interestingly, the sink has been moved onto the desk in order for the bathroom to fit into the same zone as the stairs and kitchen.

loft house x 2 brad swartz architect desk and sink
Katherine Lu

While they may be built on a small footprint, the two Loft Houses are a great example of how a careful layout can optimize things, thus creating more space overall. As Swartz sees it:

"This project is really designed as an example of a good infill project within our cities. As our cities grow, we are going to have to densify, and this is a way of showing how a small footprint house can be really liveable."

To see more, visit Brad Swartz Architect and on Instagram.