The secret is out: Living large—or at least in a large house—is overrated. Small footprints, both physically and environmentally, are the latest fashion thanks to an economy that now values thrift and conservation over opulence and waste.

Still, buyers outside densely packed urban areas might hesitate at the idea of the 1,100-square-foot Nest Cottage. But step onto the Georgia home’s long, deep front porch or just inside the front door, and any fears of claustrophobia give way to a true sense of serenity. Suddenly, small—even this small—feels just right.

Part of an enclave of what will be 15 like-sized homes within the progressive Serenbe master plan in the Chattahoochee Hill Country, about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta, the Nest Cottage is a model for builders looking for real solutions to contemporary problems of cost-conscious land use and tight credit to delivering a high level of housing performance on razor-thin margins.

That’s because the Nest Cottage, at its core, employs design and building practices rooted in Southern culture, namely deep porches that shield the sun and a floor plan with window types and placements that facilitate natural light and ventilation.

“These cottages are definitely of a Southern vernacular, but their aesthetic is derived from passive solar design, daylighting, and natural ventilation,” says designer Lew Oliver, who designed six models for the neighborhood, ranging in size from 950 to 1,650 square feet. “Those directives are intrinsic to their design,” thus defying a housing style label and enabling broader appeal.

Inside the two-story, two-bedroom, two-bath cottage, Oliver relied on spatial relationships to create the illusion of more space and actual roominess within the home’s small footprint to make it feel comfortable and livable. Specifically, he combined the kitchen, dining area, and living room into a shared area and flooded it with light. Two-story volume over that grouping extends the light, adds some drama, and enhances the perception of more footage. A guest suite occupies the remainder of the roofline.

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