Posted on Leave a comment

The Best Gifts for Small House Dwellers

The best gifts for small house dwellers

Gift buying for friends and family can get difficult, especially if you’ve waited until the last minute. Extra especially if they are hard to buy for.

We’re not talking about the sibling who has everything here. We’re talking about that special someone in your life who decided to sell off everything and go live in a tiny living space! It would seem that person may not want gifts or you have no choice but to take the route of gift cards. Well, gift cards are fine once or twice, but we’re here to tell you that there are indeed many useful gifts that a small house dweller would greatly appreciate.

Here’s a small list of some of the best gift ideas we found for your friends and family who have taken the plunge into small-house living.  These gifts are great for the holidays (or any time really).  Most importantly, they are sure to be appreciated for both their usefulness and how clever they are. We use and love many of these in our own small space. 

The list is broken down into 3 specific categories we find important to the majority of Small House dwellers: Kitchen, Garden, and Home Office. The selected gifts have affordable price tags with fast & free shipping.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means we may receive a commission for qualifying purchases made through the links provided. Thank you.


This indoor garden will grow several herbs or leafy vegetables in one small space. Plants are grown in seed pods which sit in a water reservoir fed with liquid plant food (replacement pods and food can be purchased cheaply for future plantings).
With the integral lighting you can place the unit anywhere (no sunny window required). Lighting can be adjusted in height as the plants grow. Plants grow quickly and easily. It’s a joy to harvest fresh herbs, greens and flowers from this little compact indoor garden.

Grow fresh sprouts in just a few days and add them to salads, sandwiches, soups and more. Sprouts are packed with nutrition and super fun to grow in this sprouter. Includes (4) 6″ diameter trays to add seeds and water to. You can make just one tray of sprouts or up to 4 at a time. This is the easiest sprouter to use that we have come across. It comes with a starter pack of Alfalfa seeds which are quick to grow and delicious. Additional sources for sprouting seeds are below.


No need to get out knives and cutting boards just to chop up a small amount of herbs.  These 5 bladed scissors make it quick and easy to do the task and cleanup is just as easy.  The scissors include a cleaning brush and cover.


If your obsessed with writing to-do lists, shopping lists, goals, and any other business or personal notes AND you prefer to handwrite them, you go through a ton of paper. There are tons of Apps that can assist with this madness, but I like pen and paper. What I don’t like are all the random papers, notebooks, post-it notes, etc. that clutter my small space, handbags, car (you get the picture). This neat book is super smart. The book contains (42) 8.5″x11″ pages with templates for planning and note taking. Scan the page into the app and wipe the page clean for the next round of crazy notes. Check out the video in the link for how it works.


There’s no denying that working from home can be challenging.  It requires a great deal of self-discipline to get and stay focused in your home environment. All to often, adding exercise to the daily routine is not part of the focus.  This watch changes that by reminding the wearer that it’s important to move the body and take healthy breaks throughout the work day.  From short breathing exercises to going for a lunchtime walk, this watch helps keep the wearer healthy and productive.


It can be difficult to create a dedicated office space in a small house.  Usually, laptops are the way to go in small spaces as they can be worked on at the kitchen table or counter, as well as on your lap, of course.  The problem is that this means you may need to shuffle your temporary office around at certain times of the day.  Also, many laptops today may be a bit on the heavy side making it uncomfortable to place it on your lap for a period of time.  A great solution is this handy laptop desk that can either be used like a platform/tray (with cushion underneath) or as a small table with adjustable height/foldable legs to use while sitting on a bed or sofa or even as a stand up desk. The table angle can be tilted and it includes nice features such as phone/table slots and a wrist rest.



French presses are great in small spaces.  No need for a coffee maker and filters and just tuck it away off the counter when your done.  This one goes a few steps above in that it is also a mug to drink your coffee or tea from and the quality stainless steel construction makes it great for travel to the office, for a picnic and beyond.

Before we owned one of these, we would constantly be lugging bags full of seltzer bottles home from the store, looking for price deals as many stores can overcharge for seltzer, and would get annoyed by half empty bottles constantly going flat. The soda stream is a game changer and the Terra is a pleasure to use. No need to plug in this model and just tuck it away when not in use (although it looks pretty stylish on the counter). We received this as a Christmas gift a few years back and it’s amazing.

A mini powerhouse of a mixer.  We have used this to make foam for cappuccinos, whipped fresh cream, whisked eggs, etc.  It comes with a very handy stand.  Simply press the button and whisk away (or froth, or blend…)

Hope you enjoyed this short list of affordable gift items for the small house dweller. 

Please consider signing up for our Newsletter to receive helpful small-house-living tips and additional gift-buying lists we plan to release in the future.

Posted on Leave a comment

Modern Farmhouse Design Your Way! 3 Design Options Now Available

The Modern Farmhouse Plan is now available in 3 different design options!

DESIGN 1: 890 sq ft, House only. Exterior Finishes include Board & Batten, EIFS system,
white panels and trim, white windows & window trim, Galvalume metal roof
(silver/gray finish).

DESIGN 2: same materials & finishes as Design 1 with an added single car garage and breezeway. The house is 902 sq ft & includes a kitchen door to access the breezeway to the garage.

DESIGN 3: 902 sq ft all-white house with a single car garage and breezeway. Exterior Finishes include white Board & Batten for both floors, white panels and trim, black windows w/ white window trim, black metal roof, & includes a kitchen door to access the breezeway to the garage.

Need some extra customization?  Modification Services are now available for all plans. Please contact us to receive a quick quote.

Read more about these design options over at the shop

Flyer for The Modern Farmhouse Plan. Text reads "The Modern Farmhouse Plan, Farmhouse Design Your Way. Now Available in 3 Design Options: 890 or 902 SQ FT House, Garage & Breezeway Option, Exterior Finishes Options" 3D rendering shown for all 3 design options.
Posted on Leave a comment

Why the House Plan you buy should include much more than you think it should…

So why exactly should your house plan include much more than you think it should? and what is included in most House Plans anyway?

Well, here at Small House Works, we recognize that most people need a little extra help in visualizing the potential of the home they are about to build.

This is why we go the extra mile by providing much more than basic floor plans & standard construction details like most house plans out there.

All of our house plans include useful extras to help the homeowner with their house build from start through fruition!

Continue reading below to find out why the House Plan you buy should include much more than you think it should…

Graphic titled "Why the House Plan you buy should include much more than you think it should". Images below text of interior rendering by Small House Works showing a sample Master Suite, Modern open concept interior rendering, and Modern Industrial open concept interior rendering. Text at bottom reads:

When you purchase one of our small house plans you receive lots of extras including:

  • 3D exterior renderings showing all elevations of the house for homeowner reference.
  • 3D interior renderings of every room to help the homeowner visualize the space properly.  
  • All major construction details provided in 3D.  These crystal clear details will ensure accurate interpretation of the plans by your builder.  No clarification questions and no costly mistakes.
  • Full specifications of all construction materials and exterior materials and finishes such as siding, roofing, windows and doors, decking and railings, and lighting.  We strive to keep all construction materials as eco-friendly/sustainable as possible!
  • Full specifications of all architectural materials pictured in the interior renderings such as complete kitchen & bathroom material specs, lighting, flooring, staircase and railings, paint colors, closets & other storage solutions, and appliances). We also give our customers an 8.5″ x 11″ printable pdf document listing all of these recommended materials for easy homeowner reference.  This is especially useful in helping our customers get a quick jump start with material quotes and in making alternate decisions based on personal style and budget.


  • Some of our future house plans will have quantity take-offs with national average construction materials costs available.  This enables the homeowner (if doing a self-build) or the owner’s builder, to submit the take-offs to multiple supply houses for materials quotes in a quick and efficient way. We always recommend a few quotes be obtained for materials as well as for contractor bids (read our post “How to get the best construction cost for your home” here).

  • Purchasing a “Study Plan” from us is a good way to get a feel for construction costs prior to building with a house plan.  This enables a builder to give the homeowner a ballpark estimate & determine if the house plan is the right fit even before purchasing the plans.

So, as you can see, working with a set of House Plans is certainly an affordable way to build a house today.  But be aware that a very basic set of plans just including floor plans and 2D elevations and construction details can often leave the buyer confused and not knowing what to do next.  The first crucial steps in building a home will always include some work on the new homeowner’s part but with fully detailed house plans one can get a great jump start in the right direction.


We hope you now agree that the house plan you buy should include way more than you think it should! 

Read more about our AVAILABLE HOUSE PLANS OR VISIT THE SHOP PAGE HERE to see our competitive pricing and current sales.

Below is a sample gallery of the type of 3d renderings you will receive with your House Plan purchase with Small House Works

Posted on Leave a comment

How to get the best construction cost for your new house

So you have a set of plans for your new house and you have no idea what to do next…

Whether you have purchased pre-drawn (or “stock”) house plans online or you have worked with a design professional you are, first of all, going to want to simply sit down, roll out those plans, and read them thoroughly for yourself. Now, you may not understand all the technical details but you will certainly gain a general enough familiarity with the design by doing this. You will also learn some construction language which will make you feel more confident when speaking with your contractor throughout the building process. Our goal here is to put you at ease and give you the confidence to take on a house build. New House projects are taken on every day by people just like you. You’ve got this. Here at Small House Works, we have over 30 years combined experience in the Construction Industry so trust us when we say, the next steps we’re about to talk about are arguably the most crucial in the entire process.  

We’re talking about getting a construction cost you feel comfortable with and finding a contractor you feel comfortable with.

Let’s get into it…

image of architecture plans unrolled with text How to get the best construction cost for your new house, from the blog series "Building with a House Plan"


The following is a general step by step guide to help you get started:


Obtain at least 3-4 competitive bids from Contractors

The bid should include:

  • At the very least a minimum itemized breakdown of the project costs i.e. excavation work, concrete work, rough carpentry (framing), finish carpentry (mill work, etc), plumbing, electrical, mechanical, tile work, sheet rock/tape & spackle, insulation, roofing, siding, doors & windows and hardware, floor finishes, and so on. Since you will be comparing the bids you receive it’s important that the Contractors are itemizing exactly the same way. To ensure you receive bids you can easily compare we recommend using a simple “Bid Form”. Basically, a Bid Form is an itemized list of all the major components of a construction project. The Bid Form requests that the Contractor bidding on the job provide a cost breakdown for each of the components.
  • Obtain at least 5 references from past projects of similar scope. It’s important that the Contractor you hire has good working knowledge in Residential Construction.
  • The contractors should receive the construction documents (plans) from Owner electronically (pdf). Serious Contractors should not have a problem with printing/paying for a set of documents for their own use during the bidding process.
  • Contractors bidding on the project should be made aware by the Owner that a Construction & Payment Schedule will be required upon signing the Contract. An approximate indication of how long the project will take to be completed should be included in the Contractors Bid.

Here is a Sample General Bid Form 

  You may alter or amend it to suit your needs.   It can be a lot more detailed and complicated if your project requires it to be, for example, a line item for a cost per linear foot of copper piping or a cost per cubic yard of concrete.  


  • Obtain at least 5 references from past projects of similar scope. It’s important that the Contractor you hire has good working knowledge in Residential Construction.
  • The contractors should receive the construction documents (plans) from Owner electronically (pdf). Serious Contractors should not have a problem with printing/paying for a set of documents for their own use during the bidding process.
  • Contractors bidding on the project should be made aware by the Owner that a Construction & Payment Schedule will be required upon signing the Contract. An approximate indication of how long the project will take to be completed should be included in the Contractors Bid.
  • For each payment installment, a notarized “Partial Release of Lien” Form is to be submitted to the Owner by the Contractor and all Sub Contractors related to the indicated payment. The Partial Release of Lien Form is directly related to the Payment Schedule and the Owner should always have this in-hand before handing over a check payment. The Partial Release of Lien Form offers protection in the event a Contractor or Sub Contractor claims he or she has not been paid. This form is supplied by the Owner & should be included in the contract documents.

Here is a Sample Partial Release of Lien which, like the Bid Document, you may alter or amend to suit your needs. 



  • Ask questions! Address differences in contractor bids, compare apples to apples, be cautious of numbers that appear very low or very high. Large differences between bids or in individual line items should set off an alarm.   Who knows, it may just be a simple typo that needs correcting.  Do not be afraid to ask.
  • Remember,  you are in the driver’s seat &  it’s your money… so negotiate to get the costs where you need them to be while maintaining the integrity of the design.  


  • By now, you’ve crunched all the numbers, asked all the questions, and chosen the best fitting Contractor for your house build. You should be happy with the quote you received and have a good rapport with the Contractor.
  • Make sure your selected Contractor is properly licensed and insured. Average Contractor Liability Insurance for Residential Projects is $1,000,000. This is a good time for you as the Homeowner to also consider additional insurance for coverage during the construction process i.e. damage, theft, liability. Speak to your Insurance provider about your options.
  • The Contract documents package should consist of a finalized contract supplied by the Contractor with reference to the Bid Form & a List of Drawings from the Construction Documents, a finalized Construction Schedule & Payment Schedule from the Contractor, Insurance documents from the Contractor, & the Partial Release of Lien Document supplied by the Owner. All documents should be referred to in the contract that you will be signing. These individual documents associated with the Contract are generally titled referred to in the Contract as “Exhibit A”, “Exhibit B” and so on.
  • The initial payment to the Contractor will be due upon signing of the contract. This amount is typically 10-15% of the project & it should be indicated in His/Her Contract. This payment is known as “Mobilization”. The payment will allow the Contractor to place orders for some initial supplies and materials needed to get the project going (Mobilized). The first notarized Partial Release of Lien should be supplied to the Owner from the Contractor at this time.


We hope you can see from this post that these initial steps are crucial! Hiring the right Contractor & taking your time to do this part of the process correctly can help alleviate a lot of the stress of the unknown you are about to embark on.

It’s very important that you feel comfortable going into your house build.


Has this information helped answer questions you have about the bidding process? We would love to hear what you have to say.

Are you looking for a House Plan to jump-start the process?

Why not consider one of our pre-drawn/stock house plans?

Just check out our “Designs” page here on our website.


Coming up next in this Blog Series…..

We’ll get into some alternate ways to manage the building of your new house.  From how to act as your own General Contractor to taking on the job of Construction Manager (and potentially saving a ton of money in the process!) Are you up for the task?