The most economical house is the classical house, a house that has learned from 3,000 years of practice.  Practice a thing for 3,000 years and I expect that you too will approach perfection, and then grow bored and bungle the thing, as the progressive mods have done.  Innovation?  Yes!  The classical practice of innovation (trial and testing) improved the temple to near perfection in the Parthenon, improved to practical efficiency the American economical house, the Peter Francisco House (for instance), home of the giant hero Peter and his three wives.

Much that we have learned has been forgotten by the mods who make large, exposing glass walls,
then increase air conditioner size,
and then for privacy plant tall and wide window-fronted bushes;
and then kill cooling breezes by discentering windows and doors that die into walls;
and then to balance the discentered blank windows, flat pancake the roofs to encourage mold and muck,
there to gather water eager to leak through aging seams, to freeze and sag and groan a roof from corner-to-corner under dirty piled snow;
and then to disquiet neighbors, mod-Picasso-like disarrange the face of the façade ,
an unfriendly practice disapproved by honest neighbor ladies.

In truth, much in the mod signals discontent, disquiets neighbors, disagreeably addresses street and neighborhood, and discombobulates itself, expensively.  Poor design is more expensive than good design.  Beauty is a better investment than ugliness.  The classical house is the most economical house, in building, maintenance, and resale.

Tradition maintains.  Most experiments fail.  Greatest success happens by innovation within rules, as in the Parthenon, as in the Peter Francisco House, a simple American house of the classical tradition, an economical house that learned by practice of practical living.


In 3,000 years we have learned much, and these 10 learned tips will assist in creating an affordable, economical house.


15F, The Economical House

The Economical House. #15F, Classical Revival, Plan & Elevation. Notice the box-like quality, the efficiency of this 1,280 square foot home, the simple, affordable beauty in a house distilled to essential elements. And then, you might like to know, this house intends a finished basement with spa-like bath, second fireplace in the base level family entertainment room. As shown, the house is suitable to a family of four or five, yet with an additional, well-lit base level bedroom, the (1,940 gsf) house is comfortable for a family of five or six. As you can see, the house sports a full, stand-up attic. M. Curtis, des.

  1. Build a Box

Rectangles and squares are easiest to build, less time consuming and less waste.  A pleasing paint, windows and door in measure, the correct architectural elements (to create a cohesive style), a porch, a well-ordered landscape, and you have owner satisfaction, curb appeal, resale value.  Do we need a tip two?  Perhaps not … even so…

  1. Build a Two-Story House

The foundation and the roof are the largest, heaviest, most expensive parts of a house.  Reduce these by reducing the footprint.  You will double your cubic feet of living space and halve the cost of bottom and top.  Put some portion of the savings into superior materials, or funds for fine furnishings.

  1. Simplify the Roof

No one likes the roof of a dozen gables: they tend to leak, to confuse builders and flummox architects, to anger carpenters and cost you time, money, aggravation.  Too, reduce the pitch … the higher the roof the greater the cost, though in the steep Gothic you might hide an extra floor.

  1. Centralize Plumbing

Stack bathrooms one above the other, place kitchen and laundry nearby, either on the same floor or above and below.  Pipes cost money, water along extended pipes take longer to deliver hot and clean, and with more pipe more chance of leak.

  1. Seal the House, Tight

Thicken walls for more insulation (consider 2”x6”s, if appropriate) and seal all openings; a saving in the long run allows for smaller, less expensive HVAC systems.  Following the initial design, these next five build-out tips might be helpful.

  1. Shop for Discounted Appliances and Fixtures

Mix and match this brand and that from appliance to appliance if a set is overpriced.  Stainless-steel and white and black are almost universal, stainless-steel the most so.  Search for deals.  They are easily found.

Classical Revival, Economical House

#15E, Classical Revival, Plan & Elevation.  This house is a variation of other #15 Classical Revival house plans, though simplified to reduce construction cost.  You will notice that columns have been eliminated, that bathrooms are stacked, et cetera. This economical house is 2,664 gsf, not inclusive of the finished base level.  M. Curtis, des.

  1. Phase and Update

Fixtures can be had in plastic by the box for mere dollars.  Do not buy expensive light fixtures and wall plates and the rest until each room is designed, painted, furnished.  Add fixtures last, when you can see which best suit the room and tone.  So too with faucets, et cetera, which can be purchased with cash, instead of folding into a mortgage which might double the cost per fixture.  Phase the design and purchase pieces over time.  Update when at leisure, when homework gives pleasure.

  1. Create Outdoor Rooms

Decks, gazebos, covered porches quickly and inexpensively expand living space (through most of the year), add value in resale, if tastefully planned and skillfully built.

  1. Views, Vistas, Focal Points

Design challenges are most often answered by the eye’s straight line.  We are predators; our eyes are in front; we move to what we need; the least movement lends the most reward, reduces the range of error, time and money.  Too, centered windows open views; well-placed fountains, flowers, features expand rooms.  A focal point centered or balanced reduces the need for range, the expensive enlargement of a house.

  1. Energy-Efficient Features for Rebate and Tax Saving

Reference for local, state, and federal rebates on building materials, appliances, and energy sources – though the rebates seldom justify initial costs and continued care.


Economical House Elevation

Economical House, #15E, Classical Revival, Color Elevation. M. Curtis, des.


Economical House Design Wisdom


First things second…

begin with an economical house cost “target price” in your market
based on city median income … for city median income search Best Neighborhood or other site;
calculate a mortage comfortable for you (save and pay cash, if able,
if not, 25% of pre-tax income is best, 35% if you must) … best not to become house-poor …
mortgage calculators are available through Quicken Loans, Lending Tree, and others;
reverse engineer from construction cost to maintenance cost to essential need.

simplify the design,
engineer living and storage systems for maximum efficiency,
use tried construction systems before fads and mods
(new, untried systems are often soon abandoned),
construct a solid shell … build an economical house with good, strong bones, and a durable skin.

build an economical house in the median price of the city and neighborhood,
build a traditional house, a house pleasing to your grandparents and your children,
build a house that family, friends, neighbors and critics find beautiful,
do so and you have a house that will be the first purchased, the most valuable, the best loved.

Remember: The classical house is an economical house, a practical house is less expensive than the mod, and the classical is longer lasting, better loved … friends live in classical houses one-hundred to five-hundred years old, houses that have proven the wisdom of tradition.  These few extra, economically wise tips might be useful:

straight stairways;
windows, not glass walls;
consider concrete (SIPs [Structural Insulated Panels], et cetera);
do not build larger than you need;
build beautiful: you will be richer for the experience, and the house will sell for more after children grow, after pups find their heaven, when you move along.

And remember the Goldilocks’ principle: neither too big nor too small, neither too much nor too little, neither too rich nor too poor, but just right to rest, to feed, to live and to be comfy for a family just like yours.


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Featured image: TBH, Economical House, #15F Classical Revival, Elevation. M. Curtis, des.


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