A 4-Micro-Unit House

Microhouse House - Ross Chapin Architects

Continuing the small house thread from our last post, we’ve been brainstorming into how tiny houses (< 350 SF) may be a viable housing option. Rather than being low-profile ‘outlaw’ houses, lets bring them into the neighborhood. Let them stand tall as beautiful homes for 20-Somethings, Active (Older) Singles, and even our Elders. 

Here’s a 4-micro-unit house with shared kitchen/living/dining …MicroElder Plan 8 scale.PC9

Each studio unit is 320 square feet, with their own exterior door opening out to a large south facing covered porch. The micro units have a kitchenette with undercounter fridge and small sink, but no stove. Residents can come together for shared meals, movie nights and hangout in the Commons Room. Because there is only one kitchen, the units would be considered as bedroom suites within one single house, permitted on a single-family residential lot. The total size of the house is 1808 square feet. 

Microhouse House 2- Ross Chapin Architects


What do you think? Would this be a viable development model? Would it work as a rental? For sale via coop ownership? Would it be too much of a hassle, or a welcome alternative?

10 thoughts on “A 4-Micro-Unit House

  1. Elise

    I would want to live there! Could it include a small plot to grow things in? Or would be up to the community?

  2. Sheryl Richardson

    Love this idea! My husband and I have vested interest, as well as four other families we have shared our idea with, right now, who want to build a “small home” at the Oregon coast. However, the zoning codes are horrendous….so we are currently seeking an idea such as this! Do you know of anyone currently on the Oregon coast who is doing this? We are interested 🙂

    Thank you!


  3. Simon Hibbert

    Seems like a wonderfully creative solution to inject “density” into the standard 50×100 or 60×100 tract suburban world. In my area (southern California), cities tend require one “owner” and will allow a single or couple as one “tenant” in addition to the owner, but not more. So you may need some leeway from the local city planner. Also, progressive cities are allowing and even benefiting from single meters (electrical/water/telecom) that can then be subdivided on site. The permit costs are lower and everything is easier to manage, provided that all the residents can find a way to amicably split costs. One question: Are you required to garage any of the cars?

  4. Stephanie Huntington

    This seems within the boundaries of multifamily zoning, but not in the boundaries for single residence zoning, because of the kitchenettes, which you would need. I think it is a great idea for urban settings. or rural centers. It would be better as a rental. But part of the rent would include the preperation of meals, budget for dinners. It could be a situation with just dinners in the kitchen and either trade off doing it amoung 3 or 4 units or pay to have someone prepare them, or a combo of both. Getting four individual bedrooms , either one or two people, to decide anything is frustrating . It would have to be people that were willing to do it the way chosen before they came along. I have seen cohousing and lived in coops in college and itjust better to keep it simple. Interesting idea to have this simple living units with a shared kitchen. Im sure if someone invested in building out one of these in the right location, it would be very desirable.

    1. Ross Chapin Post author

      The microunits do not have stoves, so technically, they do not have kitchens. and without a kitchen, it is not a house. Together they constitute one house with four bedroom suites. Of course, this would need to be filtered through local zoning laws. It’s a code-hack that has possibility. / Regarding the social aspect, shared intentions are essential. And of course, simple is good.

  5. Ron Emaus

    At the inception of this process, I asked Prof. Kelbaugh, former Dean of Architecture for advice and he recommended a ‘Corner House’ neighborhood design which I shared with the County and City. There are 4 houses each in a quarter of a square. They share walls and utilities. A 4-unit corner house can have 4 different size units. Thus, rather than segregating all the ‘little’ houses in one area, they are intermixed in the development. Handicapped accessible are also mixed in. I don’t remember the Architect responsible for the design. I definitely do not support standalone houses less than 538 sq ft. They are too inefficient in not sharing utilities and providing a great deal of emissive surface area especially to the sky.

    I’m in favor of the four studio house concept and would even support stacking them with 2 units on top. I remember wrestling with the code about 6 unrelated individuals in a house. I think that’s still the code. I also remember on zoning board disallowing an addition for a live-in nanny because it was too much like a living unit that could be rented. For some reason, there seems to be an aversion to mixing in rental space among single family home developments even though many houses in the neighborhood to the south are or have been rentals. I support putting the concept forward and researching later how to make it work within the code. I believe any multifamily zoning allows single family units to be built but still retain the multifamily use.

    I would support them more if you abutted them to standard housing units and mixed a variety of types and sizes throughout the development. I don’t think anyone wants to see a concentration of affordable units be taken over by students.

  6. Jill Gimbel

    My husband has talked about doing this with our extended family for 10+ years. A great plan. Multi generations learn from each other and need each other, as they do in many cultures around the world.
    Great idea. If we ever get to a place or a piece of land to do this, I’ll look you up!

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