Residential Micropolis (part 1)


Last time, we talked about scale. Now, I would like to start to apply what I have been talking about to some actual models. I’ll start small, building single family dwellings in a trio of styles.



Here in Portland, this is a fairly common style of house, typified by the two-story homes with square footprints and each floor divided into four rooms in rough quadrants.

For this little home, I’ve tried to stick to an accurate scale. Each floor is a brick tall (about 9 feet) and the overall footprint is 4×4 (translating to about 30’x30′). This would be a modest house with about 1800 square feet, not including attic and basement.

As a frame of reference, the average home in America is about 2400 square feet, so this one would be a bit cosy. I’ve given it a perky color scheme to help it stand out.

What I like here are the details. I’ve built the house on a single plate of light grey to signify the poured concrete foundation. The little bit of roof above the door will cover a bit of porch that I’ll add later.


Around the other side, I’ve added a back door with a little covering. I’ve also tried to mix up the windows a little bit to keep each side interesting. I haven’t added any of the common modifications I see to these homes, usually in the form of additional rooms on the back side.

With such a small model, it is hard to get all of the details perfect. Mostly I am trying to capture the essence. I think this one turned out charming.



The long low lines of a ranch house aren’t common in the Pacific Northwest, but I happen to walk by one very like this every morning. A wide, shallow house with an attached garage at one end and a recessed entryway. Despite the much larger footprint (4×14 studs) this home would still be smaller than average at about 2300 square feet (not including the garage)

Since the house I modeled this one after is brick with simple metal frame windows, I’ve done all my building here with plates. I’ve tried to represent the garage door at the end, set down so that it will line up with the driveway when this model gets based.

Though I used the same black cheese slopes for the roof as I did on the foursquare, I set the middle rows a plate lower to give the feel of a shallower slope. I also put a little chimney on this one.


Around the back of the house there are a few more details. I’ve made the door from the garage white because I always picture garage doors like that. At the other end of the house is a set of sliding glass doors that I have represented with translucent clear bricks, providing a contrast with the clear plates that I’ve used elsewhere for windows.



Lastly, I’ll try my hand at a modern home. I’m a big fan of modern architecture, but I struggle with reproducing its subtle use of proportion at this scale.

I’ve tried to capture the feel of poured concrete by building all of the walls with 1×1 light gray bricks of a variety of vintages. The front of the house is spare, with only two windows and a wide car port. It is important to keep in mind that those ‘small’ windows are actually 7.5’x9′ at this scale.

With this house I made the floors a little taller at a brick an a plate (or four plates for 12′). The roof is simple and flat with a pair of open studs to suggest vents of some sort. Though this house is also build on a plate like the others, I intend to recess it into the landscape so that the car port lines up with the driveway.


Around the back of the house, things open up with broad windows and more interesting lines. I’ve added a pale wood deck to the second floor as the only real departure from the grayscale minimalism.

I like how this understated house came out. This would be the largest of the three homes at about 3100 square feet. I’d like to imagine that the interior feels even more expansive with the large windows and high ceilings.

So there are three very different styles of home that showcase just a few small techniques. Next week, I’ll place each house on a micropolis base and add landscaping to take out tiny models and turn them into detailed residential properties.

Keep building and enjoy!