written by:
photos by:
October 17, 2011
Originally published in Smaller & Smarter
as
All We Need

This pair of handy Portlanders doesn’t crave any more of Oregon’s territory than what’s taken up by their 704-square-foot home, hard-working garden, and smartly designed outdoor spaces.

residential urban wooden box harpoon house
A basic box that’s as tall as it is wide (28 feet) and 16 feet long, this Portland, Oregon house consists of rooms stacked verti­cally: an unfinished basement on the bottom, a kitchen-living area and a bathroom in the middle, and a bedroom on top, with the stairwell hinged onto the front of the home. The only interior doors are those to the bathroom, basement, and root cellar, leaving the rest of the space open and unfettered. At just 704 square feet, Katherine Bovee and Matt Kirkpatrick's home is a great lesson in making the most out of every inch. Click here to see the interior.
Photo by 
1 / 8
organized book shelving for living room
Keeping everything in its place is critical in this tiny home. Shelving designed by Kirkpatrick helps immensely. He's also designed the coffee table; the couch was picked up at a second-hand store. The vaporproof ceiling light is from RAB lighting.
Photo by 
2 / 8
multipurpose bedroom closet workspace
A pair of windows shed a bit of light in the bedroom, which boasts a lofted bed and workspace with a sink and closet beneath. The sink is by Lacava and the tap is from Fluid Faucet's Wisdom line.
Photo by 
3 / 8
Modern small space wood-and-metal kitchen
Bovee and Kirkpatrick eat at the table he designed. The cooktop, oven, and dishwasher are by Bosch; Bren Reis of Earthbound industries made the cabinets.
Photo by 
4 / 8
Modern mini office space
Bovee uses the small desk at the foot of the couple's bed for freelance writing projects.
Photo by 
5 / 8
harpoon house second floor floor plan
The Second Floor Plan

A: Roof Garden

B: Bedroom

Photo by 
6 / 8
harpoon house first floor floor plan
The First Floor plan

C: Kitchen/Dining/ Living Area

D: Deck

E: Bathroom

Photo by 
7 / 8
harpoon house basement floor plan
The Basement

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Photo by 
8 / 8
residential urban wooden box harpoon house
A basic box that’s as tall as it is wide (28 feet) and 16 feet long, this Portland, Oregon house consists of rooms stacked verti­cally: an unfinished basement on the bottom, a kitchen-living area and a bathroom in the middle, and a bedroom on top, with the stairwell hinged onto the front of the home. The only interior doors are those to the bathroom, basement, and root cellar, leaving the rest of the space open and unfettered. At just 704 square feet, Katherine Bovee and Matt Kirkpatrick's home is a great lesson in making the most out of every inch. Click here to see the interior.
Project 
Harpoon House

It’s a crisp day in Portland, Oregon, and the last few rays of afternoon light are slipping behind the clouds. Arriving home from work, Katherine Bovee pauses in her front yard to pluck a leafy handful of arugula and pocket some radishes before heading indoors to start dinner with her small harvest. Inside, her partner, Matt Kirkpatrick, has a pot of tea steeping on the kitchen table and some lounge music gently grooving in the background. With such a cozy domestic tableau as the backdrop, Kirkpatrick laughs at the idea that they’re missing out for living small. “In many ways, it’s hedonistic,” he says. “We get all the things that are great about owning a house without the extra baggage of a bigger place.”

Three years ago, they were living a few blocks away in a similarly sized rental in a subdivided Portland four-square. “We didn’t feel like we needed more space; we just wanted it to work better,” says Kirkpatrick of the dark series of closed-off rooms that comprised their apartment. With plenty of design acumen between them—Kirkpatrick is a designer with his own firm, Design for Occupancy, and Bovee is a studio director at branding and marketing company Joule—they decided to build their own house and started scouting the nearby streets for an empty lot.

organized book shelving for living room
Keeping everything in its place is critical in this tiny home. Shelving designed by Kirkpatrick helps immensely. He's also designed the coffee table; the couch was picked up at a second-hand store. The vaporproof ceiling light is from RAB lighting.
They found themselves coveting a particular 50-by-50-foot corner space. Perfectly positioned in the inner Southeast Portland neighborhood they’d come to love for its easy combination of residential feel within an urban setting, the land is a manageable walk to downtown, and amidst a heady hipster mix of restaurants and shops. The lot itself, bounded by a chain-link fence and occupied by a lone hydrangea bush, was an unloved, unused side yard for the house next door—in other words, a blank slate. The couple put in an offer, and they became the proud owners of their own patch of turf. Nine months later, after an uneventful construction process, Bovee and Kirkpatrick moved into their dream home.

Kirkpatrick designed the house to draw upon the outdoor area rather than dominate it. Instead of a single-story home that spreads to the limit of the lot, the three-story house holds itself trimly in place. A basic box that’s as tall as it is wide (28 feet) and 16 feet long, the house consists of rooms stacked verti­cally: an unfinished basement on the bottom, a kitchen-living area and a bathroom in the middle, and a bedroom on top, with the stairwell hinged onto the front of the home. The only interior doors are those to the bathroom, basement, and root cellar, leaving the rest of the space open and unfettered.

multipurpose bedroom closet workspace
A pair of windows shed a bit of light in the bedroom, which boasts a lofted bed and workspace with a sink and closet beneath. The sink is by Lacava and the tap is from Fluid Faucet's Wisdom line.
All the furnishings are pared down to basic func­tions, and many serve dual purposes. A horizontal bank of cabinets set against one wall, with integrated appliances and sleek stainless countertops sliding on top, makes up the kitchen. The dining, coffee, and side tables, built out of leftover cabinet scraps, double as Kirkpatrick’s work spaces. Upstairs, the closet is a rod tucked under the sleeping loft, where Bovee writes freelance art reviews on a desk at the foot of the bed.

Clean lines, simple white walls, and a clear lack of architectural ornamentation keep the house from feeling claustrophobic. The ten-foot ceilings (a generous 12 in the bedroom) don’t hurt either. With massive windows, minimal furnishings, and a strong sense of linearity inside and out, the house feels bright, light, and airy. Yet the couple bristles when others suggest that their intent was to make the place feel larger. “People ask us, ‘What did you do to make your house not feel like this cramped little thing?’ with the idea that the house is trying to act big,” says Bovee. “It’s not. It’s a small house acting like a small house. We built the house to fit in its own skin.”

Indeed, there are many benefits to living com­pactly beyond having less space to maintain. The couple was able to use earth-friendly materials to create a well-crafted home that came in on budget for a total of $230,000 (minus the cost of the land); if they had added square footage, they wouldn’t have been able to afford the same quality of materials. The framing, for example, was done with structurally insulated panels, rigid building sheets that are incredibly energy-efficient and structurally sound. Add to that triple-paned windows, FSC-certified hardwood floors, and a water heater that draws heat out of the air in the basement to warm up the house’s water, and the house is a model in small-scale sustainability.

Modern small space wood-and-metal kitchen
Bovee and Kirkpatrick eat at the table he designed. The cooktop, oven, and dishwasher are by Bosch; Bren Reis of Earthbound industries made the cabinets.
Yet perhaps what makes the home feel expan­sive is its interaction with the outdoors. “The neighbor­hood is part of our lifestyle,” explains Kirkpatrick. The windows frame views ranging from their neigh­bor’s gnarled tulip tree all the way to the down­­town skyline. When the weather allows, the couple pulls their dining table onto a deck off the living room, and on balmy evenings they can even sleep out on the green roof, which is accessible by a sliding door in their bedroom. Another planted roof caps the house and provides the perfect perch from which to watch Fourth of July fireworks. A 10-by-30-foot garden space out front has become a veritable farm where they grow everything from blueberry bushes to persimmon trees to fava beans. If they yearn for a grassy lawn to lie on, there’s a huge field behind a school a block away.

As memories of summer fade into the cool, gray days of autumn, Kirkpatrick pulls open the kitchen freezer to show off a collection of his famous homemade ice creams in garden-fresh flavors like juniper berry and chocolate rosemary. Bovee talks about the apples, potatoes, and radishes that she’s going to cull from the garden and store in the basement root cellar, then looks around her house, glowing warm as the trees lay bare. Their cat, Soleil, stretches out on the couch matched exactly to the color of her fur, and the teakettle whistles across the room. “There’s nothing sacrificial about living in this house,” she concludes contentedly. “We have what we need, and no more.”

Go Big, Go Home

Modern mini office space
Bovee uses the small desk at the foot of the couple's bed for freelance writing projects.

Though Matt Kirkpatrick and Katherine Bovee didn't crave a mansion, they did design a handful of clever spatial tricks to keep their small home just the right size.

Strip Show

Most people ignore their park strip, letting weeds take over. Kirkpatrick and Bovee turned theirs into a wild­flower meadow, with around 30 vari­eties of native plant species. From lupine to meadow foam to larkspur, the greenery attracts insects and birds—–and extends their living space all the way out to the street instead of stopping short at the sidewalk.

On the Level

Stairs are often space hogs. To make the most of space that would other­-wise be wasted, Kirkpatrick used the intersection of stair levels to their advan­tage: At the front door, where the stairs descend to the basement, he created space for a coat rack and front entry area, and on the top level, he placed the sleeping loft on a platform above the stairs.

Have It Both Ways

With an eye to making everything dual purpose, the couple created a foot-thick wall that separates the bathroom from the living area. On the living-room side, it’s a bookshelf with space for cooking tomes and the pair’s antique camera collection. On the bathroom side, it opens up into a storage area for towels, toiletries, and other personal sundries.

 

For floor plans of the Harpoon House, please view the slideshow.

 

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016