After deciding to transition into residential architecture from a large, international design firm where he’d focused on higher education buildings, architect Alex Wu made himself his first client. He opted to build a spec home on a so-called "unbuildable" lot in Atlanta, Georgia’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
Wu recounts his line of thinking: "How could I compete for lots against developers with deeper pockets and much cheaper construction? My answer was to look for a project with so many constraints that a typical developer would avoid it because they would need the expertise of a good designer." He sought out small, narrow lots as a result. "Fortune led me to a 20-foot by 75-foot lot that met my financial model requirements," says Wu.
Permits & Fees
Site Work & Utility Connections
Footings & Excavations
Roofing & Gutters
Windows & Doors
Siding & Exterior Paint
Cabinets & Wood Ceiling
|Grand Total: $332,212|
Note: Since Alex Wu designed A Mews House as a personal project, architectural fees are not included in the grand total.
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Still, Wu’s 20-foot-wide lot presented numerous challenges. First, Wu had to get a variance to increase the house’s allowable size and decrease the setbacks, which ultimately expanded the house’s footprint from a six-foot-wide house to one that could be 14-foot-wide. "From a design perspective, a 14-foot-wide house, like any narrow house, is a challenge to make into functional space," said Wu.
Rather than max out all of the available space with a rectangular box, Wu divided the house plan into three parts. Now, a white brick-clad box fronts the street, stepping down from a more traditional, gabled form at the back. These sandwich a glass "spacer" in between, which houses the entry and main stairs. Standing three stories high in the back, the home hosts two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and a bonus office, and is a comfortable 1,650-square-feet despite the constraints at the start of the process. "Often when people visit, they don’t even notice that the house is so narrow," says Wu.
The front of A Mews House is clad in Boral Brick’s Magnolia Bay brick, while the gabled form at the back is sheathed in vertical, board-and-batten siding.
"As its name implies, the project is inspired by thoughtful mews, or carriage, houses that have been converted to residences in London," says Wu. "The project also plays off the clichéd farmhouse modern style prevalent today." Wu also cites Mews House by Russell Jones and House Bäumle by Bernardo Bader Architekten as influences on the design.
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More Budget Breakdown:
Architect: Alex Wu Architect
Builder: F M Studio
Structural Engineer: Law Engineering Consultants, Inc
Other Company: Dekalb Surveys, Inc
Staging: Design2Sell, LLC