No. 28 - Cedrus Modern house plan (free)

Drafted & designed by S. Dehner for THE small HOUSE CATALOG

A hint of mid-century modern...

The Cedrus is the first in series of mid-century modern inspired plans I'm creating as I work toward developing a design for our next building project. Having built a few small houses most would describe as more "traditional" I've been eager to try my hand at something entirely new. Much original mid-century modern residential architecture is notoriously energy in-efficient and built using methods that cannot be replicated today due to smarter energy codes and mandatory seismic requirements, among other reasons. But I find architectural features like low slung roofs, open living areas, copious windows and doors, and at-grade foundations quite appealing.

And then came my discovery of the Japanese engawa

Last summer some clients visited us on our San Juan Island building site and they gifted us a modern classic book on Japanese architecture, Measure and Construction of the Japanese House by Heino Engel. I found this book to be so refreshing because it illustrates how wood can be used to design beautiful, meaningful, long-lasting structures that have the potential to last centuries. As someone who lives, designs and builds in a seismic zone, I'm intrigued that so much traditional Japanese wooden architecture is still standing today. 

I confess I don't have the skills to pull off the type of joinery that holds together classical Japanese architecture. Perhaps some day. But as someone who enjoys working alone - and with my wife - moving posts and beams is not something I can easily do - so even if I developed such skills I'm not sure I'd ever approach a building project with the intention of using them.

What I took from the book was not technique but design. I really like the the long views, the banks of windows, and especially the engawa, or porch, that is typical in a Japanese house. A long and narrow engawa was part of my original iteration but replaced by a simple patio to reduce costs and speed the plan through code enforcement. The patio effect is similar and still pleasing to me and if I ever build this house I'd not hesitate to add an engawa.

Plan features

At only 1024 square feet the plan features two bedrooms and two baths, each of which can be closed off with unobtrusive pocket doors doors from the rest of the house to create full private ensuites; an obvious entryway, for some reason too often missing on modern houses, opens onto a long hallway that delivers a long, clean view with glass windows and doors to the left and built-in cabinets and shelves to the right. 

The sleeping areas are also one-step up from the rest of the house to create a cozier atmosphere in those rooms.

The main room has plenty of south facing windows, large kitchen and dining area, and a comfortable living space for relaxing by the fireplace.


  • Bedrooms: 2
  • Bathrooms: 1-3/4 
  • Ceiling heights: 10'-0" sloping to 8'-0"
  • Conditioned space: 1024 
  • Foundation type: Insulated slab
  • Print size: 24" x 36"
  • Immediate PDF download with license to build
  • Design criteria: 2015 IRC, 2012 WA State Energy Code

Notes & features: Super-insulated envelope, 2x6 walls with 2x2 furring, double ensuites, designed for southern exposure. 

Renderings are approximate and are not literal representations of the designs. Designs are subject to change without notice.

Signature House Plan

This is an original plan that we created only last month. It's been a year since I've been able to share a signature design with my subscribers. I hope this house proves worth the wait for some of you! By the way there are now more than 14,000 of you subscribing by email and almost twice as many on Facebook. Your enthusiasm keeps me inspired to maintain the free plan program.

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