Maximizing Space on a Narrow Lot


Located in a 100-year-old historic neighborhood lined with Queen Anne and Craftsman-style homes sits the Greenlea, one of my favorite projects. This infill home is situated on a narrow corner lot facing a beautiful park in Michigan. Though you wouldn’t know by looking at it, this location presented us with a few challenges. We were tasked with building a historically accurate home that was adapted to a more modern lifestyle with a big personality in a very small footprint. Here’s how we brought this design to life.

Open-Concept Main-Level

Open-Concept Main-Level

As you enter the main living space, notice a variety of modern finishes with historic touches. A beautiful geometric lantern with candelabra bulbs mimics the classic look of a historic candle chandelier. The beams in this home are painted the same color as the ceiling in a high gloss finish. The change in finish creates defined spaces between kitchen, dining and living rooms Built-in storage solutions are sprinkled throughout the home like the window seat and additional built-in cubbies beyond the sliding barn doors.

Creating a sense of separation between this large living and dining space is a traditional Napoleon Ascent™ 42 Gas Fireplace with a slate grey surround and mantel. The Ascent™ is a versatile unit that can be designed to reflect any style of home. The Greenlea has light-colored walls and tons of natural light. The custom stone surround of this Ascent™ offers an element of contrast, a focal point for the space and a linchpin for furnishing. Adjacent to beautiful French doors, the fireplace adds a feeling of warmth and a welcoming invitation to homeowners and guests alike.

Elevated Second-Story

A logical approach to a narrow lot is to build upward. However, in this historic neighborhood, we had to meet the height restrictions. This means every square foot had to be utilized to its full potential. The Greenlea features a double-gable roof to add more drama and space in the second-level bedrooms including a massive master suite with a shed dormer peering over the beautiful front porch. Attached to the master area is a large ensuite and master closet complete with more built-in storage solutions. Additionally, the upstairs contains two more bedrooms sharing a bathroom perfect for children or guests.

Entertaining Lower-Level

Every great home has a space to accommodate friends and family. The Greenlea is no exception. At the bottom of the central staircase, which features oak banisters and black matte balusters, are the informal living and entertaining space, guest bed and bath and mechanical space. Some may just call it a basement, but it’s so much more. The large entertainment space functions for movie nights, family fun and the next big game. Attached to this informal living room are a gym and a play area as well as a guest bedroom and bathroom to accommodate overnight guests with ease.

The most challenging designs are also the most rewarding. Adhering to Queen Anne and Craftsman-style homes in this historic neighborhood challenged me to create a home that speaks to the period, but without the leaks, creaks and expensive inconveniences that come with owning an old home.

Wayne Visbeen

Wayne Visbeen, AIA, IIDA, principal and founder of Visbeen Architects, Inc., is known for his one-of-a-kind home designs. Visbeen works with clients to understand the important aspects of their vision and then transforms these into a conceptual sketch right before their eyes. Winner of more than 100 Residential Design Awards and dozens of Best in American Living Awards, Visbeen incorporates these themes and more into his designs and his own home, located in Grand Rapids, Mich.