Utah Style and Design

Tiny House, Big Style: Dallas Davis’ Pint-Sized Masterpiece

October 14, 2019

Inspired by its tiny lot, a pint-sized Avenues home takes on big living and style, thanks to the deft design of architect Dallas Davis. 

Architect Dallas Davis relaxes on his front steps.

Photos by Scot Zimmerman

If ever there were a home’s design driven by its site, this is it. The city lot, measuring a mere 33-feet wide and 82-feet long, is sandwiched between two elegant old homes in Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood. For a century, ordinances deemed the land unbuildable, so it languished weed-covered and vacant.

The main level includes an open great room area and steps down in back to a master suite, following the property’s grade. The home’s roofline also drops in back to accommodate existing power lines. A light-filled stairwell leads to a lower level that sits below the front portion of the home and is comprised of a media room and guest suite.

In 2016, new zoning permitted a residence to be added to the sliver of land, but there was a catch: the structure’s footprint could consume no more that 40 percent of the property. The gauntlet had been thrown down, and architect Dallas Davis quickly picked it up. He purchased the land and created his new home with a footprint measuring only 720 square feet. A basement adds 430 more square feet of living space below.

Admittedly, Davis is not a disciple of tiny home living. “The house is small because it had to be,” he explains. Davis works with Elliott Workgroup in Park City and is accustomed to dealing with cramped properties and difficult zoning restrictions. He and his team have remodeled many big-money, tiny-rooms miners’ cottages located around historic Main Street. “I’ve had to think through a lot of spatial challenges over the years,” he says.

 

Size wasn’t the only thing that impacted Davis’ design. Style was also key. While the modern-leaning architect doesn’t favor traditional style, he knew that this house should. “I wanted to make the home as modern as possible while respecting the neighborhood,” says Davis, who looked to surrounding period homes for inspiration and ideas. Their peaked rooflines, covered porches and clapboard siding all affected his design. The architect embraced these and other traditional elements, but he gave many a fresh spin. Yes, there are gables on his new home, but they don’t overhang. “They’re completely pared back,” Davis explains. So too are the simple columns framing its uniquely broad front porch. The front door welcomes guests, but unlike the neighbors’ doors, it is glass, asymmetrically positioned and surrounded by windows with square panes. “I didn’t want this to just look like an old house that has been remodeled,” he says. No problem there.

The open living, dining and kitchen areas occupy the main part of the home. The peaked ceiling reaches 16 feet high and delivers a sense of space that belies the interior’s small dimensions. The white walls and ceiling, as well as refined finishes and carefully chosen furnishings foster the home’s spacious feel. Davis painted the inside of the new Sierra-Pacific wood windows a shade of black to replicate steel sash versions.

Inside, luminous, uplifting light defines and visually expands the interior. A palette of wire-brushed European white oak floors, white high-gloss laminate cabinets, shiny Neolith countertops and pale gray textiles reflect his strict adherence to limited colors and materials that unify interior spaces and makes them feel spacious, graceful and at ease. Davis painted the walls and ceiling the same shade of white as the exterior and painted the wood windows a contrasting espresso color that matches their exterior cladding.

A wall of windows composes the home’s entry and floods light into the man living space measuring a modest 16-feet wide and 24-feet deep. A family friend constructed the fireplace with brick salvaged from an 1860’s building and the sidewalk of homeowner Dallas Davis’ childhood home.

Brick salvaged from the sidewalk of Davis’ childhood home forms the fireplace, also painted white. “I love white and how shadows play off of it,” he says. Davis breaks from white in the master suite, where a dark navy wall backs art and an upholstered headboard. In the lower level’s media room and guest suite, he dramatically included black walls and accents to create a “chic, urban hotel look.”

In the galley kitchen, light streams through a side window across shiny Neolith countertops from The Stone Collection and custom laminate cabinets built by Davis’ father Brent, owner of Davis Mill and Cabinets. Matte-finished walls accentuate their high-sheen surfaces. “Gloss against matte occurs throughout the house,” Davis says. He doggedly maintained consistent lines that extend from cabinetry, to window moldings and trim work, adhering to the interior’s streamlined, precise design.


Throughout the interior, space-savvy details win out. A built-in coat closet and pantry frame an inset window seat that serves the dining table and prevents it from intruding far into the narrow, 16-foot-wide room. The bench contains and conceals ductwork that would have otherwise dropped from the basement ceiling below, impeding on its space. Cabinets shape an efficient galley kitchen and provide required storage as do built-ins throughout the interior. “I’m limited on space, so I have to think about every little detail and where everything goes,” says Davis. “You can’t waste room in a home this size.” Low-profile furnishings allow light and sight lines to flow uninterrupted while providing a comfortable place to relax and entertain friends and family.

The master bedroom occupies the back of the home and enjoys views of the small, tree-shaded yard. Davis painted the main wall in Sherwin-Williams’ Granite Peak to foster a cozy feel and to accentuate the art and upholstered headboard.

“It’s really fun living here,” Davis says. “It’s not the most ground-breaking thing you ever saw, but it fits. It’s modern, but it does it subtly. It draws from the neighborhood. And for me, it’s the perfect size.” In no small way, the owner and his new house are happily at home in the Avenues. 

Brad Mee
Editor-In-Chief

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