Stuart Harrison – Forty-Six Square Metres Of Land Doesn’t Normally Become A House

by Jenny Butler
Monday 17th October 2011

Today we welcome Stuart Harrison to the Guest Blog! Odds are you will be familiar with some or all of Stuart’s work- he’s a respected Melbourne architect, co-host of Triple RRR’s radio show ‘The Architects’ and the author of ‘A place in the Sun’. Stuart’s second book has just been published with Thames and Hudson and this week we are lucky to have Stuart sharing 5 outstanding projects from his new book Forty-Six Square Metres Of Land Doesn’t Normally Become A House. -Jenny x

The cover of Stuart Harrison’s new book- Forty Six Square Meters of Land Doesn’t Normally Become A House. Published by Thames & Husdon.

So I’m excited to be guest blogging on The Design Files – and this week I’m going to talk a bit about great housing design – and show some inspiring projects from my new book, Forty-Six Square Metres Of Land Doesn’t Normally Become A House. It’s a crazy title and a little more about that in a second, but is really about showing some great types of dwellings that aren’t MASSIVE. Australians have the biggest houses in the world (yes bigger than Americans), and these are often both big and pretty bad, so I was keen to show how smaller compact housing could be good, well-designed and part of a more shared idea of the city. So no mansions, not fortresses. In a coffee table book format.

The Small House by Domenic Alvaro. All photos – Trevor Mein.

The kitchen and dining level of the Small House

Myself, designer Stuart Geddes and editor Paulina de Laveaux were struggling to come up with a good title. There were plenty of bad ones. The idea floated of not having a title at all, and of starting the book on the cover, not to waste space, which is what we did. The title is the first line of the text, which I had already written, the Forty-Six Square Metres….. It was about the first project, the Small House by Domenic Alvaro, but the line also spoke to the wider idea of the book, that small pockets of land could become good houses. So today I’m talking about that house, the one that starts it off. The projects are organised through land size, smallest at the start, biggest at the back (and on the back cover). 45 dwellings are featured, each with many photographs, plans (at the same scale) and cross-sections.

Looking down onto the rooftop garden and study. All photos – Trevor Mein.

Looking through the study out onto the rooftop garden

To give an idea of scale for this house, the site before was used as small carpark in Sydney, enough for three cars only – that’s the 46 square metres. What has replaced it is a five storey house, with one idea of living on each level – the top is a garden and study, the levels below eating and lounging, a bedroom on the first floor. The ground level is garage that can become another bedroom or home-office.

The lounging level of the Small House by Domenic Alvaro

It’s proudly built out of concrete, and gets its aspect, a sense of space, from the surrounding terraces and commercial buildings. It’s very urban but works as well a house. It also featured on Grand Design Australia, which gave a great insight to what was involved in getting this ‘vertical’ house up.


by Jenny Butler
Monday 17th October 2011


  • Mich- 5 years ago

    Hi Stuart,

    I’m one of your student :)

    I would love to be one of the lucky winner

  • wilfried 5 years ago

    It seems to be the same as with a good espresso: the smaller, the tastier !
    In case the coffee-table book will be mine, I’ll enjoy it with a good ristretto (and anyway, I’ll certainly envy your students ;) ).
    Brilliant design, keep up the good work !

  • Christine 5 years ago

    Architecture is a real interest of mine and we built on a vey small triangle of land in St Kilda. it was fun working with the architect to see just how well we could use the space. People call our home the tardis! I look froward to the book even if it’s not mine from this.

  • yvette 5 years ago

    What a cool house!

  • Clare 5 years ago

    Oh, this book sounds awesome! We live in a (by interiors magazine standards) small house of 90 m2 (yup, house, not townhouse or terrace or apartment) and it’s a great size. I have to be careful with interiors magazines, though, because so many of them feature BIG houses with BIG furniture and I can’t relate or get excited.

    I’ve been daydreaming recently about building our next place from scratch, and because I’d want to stay inner city that would mean trying to build a family home on a small block. I love the idea of the challenge, and of proving something beautiful and amazing can be done in a small footprint.

  • melissa 5 years ago

    fabulous i love these innovative clever designs,i would love your book

  • Ella 5 years ago

    I’m really excited by this guest post series. I work mostly on large houses but compact living is something I’m really interested in and is an area I would like to move in to. I think finding innovative solutions for small spaces is a really important part of aspiring to a sustainable future. I’d love to take a peek at the design solutions in this book.

  • Rebbecca 5 years ago

    what an inspiring and clever way to remind ourselves that ‘big’ isn’t always better.

  • Emma 5 years ago

    small and beautiful, very ethical way to live

  • lucy 5 years ago

    Sounds great, I live in a 41m2 apartment (including walls) and do find a lot of books only look at a lot larger spaces

  • Camilla Cathro 5 years ago

    Looks Fantastic! I’d love to read more about this in this beautiful looking book!

  • Louise 5 years ago

    This book sounds amazing. I would love to see how others design within small spaces. I saw the Small House on Grand Designs.

  • Kate 5 years ago

    What an amazing use of space! In such a crowded city its a fantastic vision to be able to create a big beautiful home! Thanks Stuart

  • Lisette 5 years ago

    I’ve always loved teeny tiny houses but I think I have too much crap to ever live in one!

  • Martina 5 years ago

    Thanks to another great inspirational book! Would live to get a copy into my hands.

  • Amanda 5 years ago

    What extra space would you need!

  • Ash Braun 5 years ago

    I’ve loved that house from the first minute I saw the architect talk about the concept on Grand Designs. I’d love the book to discover more ideas on living smarter.

  • Christina 5 years ago

    This book should be required reading for everyone contemplating owning a McMansion – smaller, well designed houses with plenty of storage feel spacious and meet all our needs.
    Those hundreds of extra square metres create more problems than they solve. Congratulations on this timely and beautiful book.

  • thomas 5 years ago

    Would be interested in seeing the space saving and space maximising designs

  • Donna Quirke 5 years ago

    As the owner of a tiny house, I’m sure this book would give me plenty of inspiration on how to maximise my space!

  • claire 5 years ago

    This book looks like such a great read. That house is amazing!

  • tom 5 years ago

    I saw this house on Australian Grand Desgins. very clever house and made me want to renovate my place in a similar way! very inspirational!!

  • Rosie 5 years ago

    This looks awesome. Can’t think of a more interesting comment than that but maybe I’d have more to say if I won a copy…

  • Anthea 5 years ago

    Small places, big impact !

  • jo 5 years ago

    Awesome house and great concept for a book.

  • Amy 5 years ago

    This looks great. Love the rooftop garden.

  • Kate 5 years ago

    We just bought our first apartment… it’s 30m2… we need help and this book looks like just the ticket!!

  • Emma 5 years ago

    Oh my goodness, I need this book! My house is teeny tiny and I would love some gorgeous inspiration!

  • Ilka 5 years ago

    It’s great to see the progression of the house since seeing it on grand designs australia, (The garden looks fabulous! ) And it’s a real inspiration to anyone who wants to build their own little slice of heaven in an area that has hardly any space left for building new properties. I really admire their hard work, it really paid off. Well done ;) I look forward to reading the book.

  • tess 5 years ago

    I love seeing what people do with small space interiors… it makes my tetris-loving brain cells dance!

  • elissa c 5 years ago

    I love small spaces like this – so much creativity and innovation required to make them functional and beautiful.

  • Carly 5 years ago

    Love the guest blog this week! As I am currently living in the big city of Buenos Aires I have come to appreciate smaller spaces and how they are used, so it´s great to see some smaller spaces back home in Oz.

  • ros 5 years ago

    I really liked the picture of the study at the top of the house. Sun drenched and full of plants. The two essential elements which are key to feeling good!! Small, functional and green!! Love it!

  • Marie Biswell 5 years ago

    Such a cute ‘lil’ book & I just simply adore those photos especially those stairs in the bottom pic!!

  • Kelly 5 years ago

    the book sounds amazing…. it’s great to see small spaces being highlighted, not only are they becoming a reality in most cities, but are much more sustainable and creative too!

  • gabba gg 5 years ago

    wish i had contracted stuart for my small reno..!! Alas, i’ll just have to wait for the book to get some new storage and decorating ideas and continue to be inspired by THE Architects..on Triple RRR.

    keep up the great work!

  • Priscilla 5 years ago

    Looking forward to the rest of the week’s posts

  • janne Blacker 5 years ago

    Please, please let this book become a best seller – I just don’t get the Mc mansion!

  • Rebecca 5 years ago

    Living in a space no bigger than most people’s living rooms.. I very much relate to this book.

    Would love a copy for some perspective :)

  • Anna Di Pietro 5 years ago

    Living in an intelligent way is applicable to all of us.

  • Mandi 5 years ago

    I love tiny houses! Can’t wait to check out the book…

  • feyza 5 years ago

    I’m sure this book will prove to be useful for most of us, who are no longer able to afford houses and find ourselves in apartments that are no bigger than 50sqm! Innovative design and craftsmanship will make all the difference!

  • Kerry Smith 5 years ago

    Hooray for smaller houses in a crowded bankrupt world

  • Lorena Mair 5 years ago

    Wow, so inspiring!

  • CB 5 years ago

    Living in less than 40m2 I need this book!!

  • Michelle 5 years ago

    I live and work in small spaces. Would love to see what others do.

  • Kristen 5 years ago

    I can’t wait to read this book! Its the way we need to be going with housing…Less demand on resources but greater innovation in construction

  • Jessica Lowther 5 years ago

    I would love a peak into this book, I’m addicted to architecture and love clever design!

  • Bella 5 years ago

    I am in love with the rooftop garden and that staircase!!

  • Colleen 5 years ago

    Amazing use of space. I’d like to know more about living on on 5 levels.

  • Leah Fotofili 5 years ago

    Amazing houses, fantastic book.

  • Michael 5 years ago

    The architect has created ‘a lot’ from ‘a little’ well done Domonic I love what you have achieved in terms of form, volume, natural light etc. I would love to read about this project and others.

  • Emmell 5 years ago

    I’m so used to seeing these amazing feats of architecture in Japan, so it is truly delightful seeing this kind of brilliance in Australia. And thank you for making such a pretty, pretty book about it.

  • stephanie darling 5 years ago

    this looks like a pretty freaking awesome book!

  • Emma 5 years ago

    What a wonderful way to try and change Australian’s mentality that Bigger is Better! We live in a tiny, well designed inner city terrace and think our house it more liveable, sustainable and enjoyable than any McMansion we have had the misfortunate of visiting! For my husband and two kids, our weekends are more about lifestyle and less about cleaning and maintenance!

  • Sue 5 years ago

    A great celebration of local designers. Proof Australian region are not always compelled to build sprawing houses every time. These seem like great examples of a very high standard, in line with our Japanese urban dwelling masters.

  • Mei 5 years ago

    I’m so glad someone is talking about compact living in Au/NZ! I was a bit ashamed when I found out Australia has the biggest houses in the world. I have a lot of respect for the way the Japanese and Swedes use space, look forward to seeing some great local examples.

  • Kylie 5 years ago

    I loved seeing this house on grand designs!

  • jasmine 5 years ago

    I am interested in the idea of a smaller house…especially if this equals less housework! …also love the awesome rooftop garden..

  • Andy 5 years ago

    that is a great project… love to check out the book.

  • sandra 5 years ago

    yes please

  • janine 5 years ago

    Just yesterday I came to the conclusion that small residential dwellings was the path I am going to take! I was concerned how these types of houses would be recieved in Australia, although after seeing this book I am excited about the possibilities. I would love a copy!

  • Anne 5 years ago

    It’s so exciting to see someone passionate about designing and building small houses!!

  • Gillian 5 years ago

    small is beautiful

  • Michelle Fieldsend 5 years ago

    We need all the inspiration we can get find as we are about to build our ’empty-nester pad on a patch in our back yard !! Would love to have a gem like this to ‘show us the way’ !!!

  • Jill 5 years ago

    Earth friendlier, such a smart idea. No more McMansions for Melbourne.

  • Katrina 5 years ago

    Love that house and loved seeing it on Grand Designs

  • Brenton 5 years ago

    So devoted to living large in a small space. ‘Wee’ is the way! Love it. Would love to win the book too.

  • Anna 5 years ago

    We could all learn a little about living smaller!

  • Jennifer 5 years ago

    I love small dwellings, they can work so efficiently and well organised…

  • JohnA 5 years ago

    Fascinating subject. The Japanese seem to be masters of this form of Architecture.

  • Emma 5 years ago

    Ohhh, I’ll be buying this book the day it comes out! Very exciting. So thought provoking… everyone I know is doing huge extensions to original single & double fronted homes, but makes you question whether you need to do a massive extension or just incorporate a smarter design.

  • Hannah 5 years ago

    Looking forward to seeing more well thought out tiny dwellings this week!

  • Anna 5 years ago

    ‘A place in the sun’ is a favourite of mine! I’ll have to go down and buy this one, unless i win it!

  • E-Gene 5 years ago

    Always love a well designed abode. Especially one that uses the space so well.

  • Catherine Nelson 5 years ago

    Creativity in small spaces…mmm, can’t wait to see the book!!

  • Alexandra Hanna 5 years ago

    Great idea for a design book. Love Grand Designs!

  • Toni 5 years ago

    The roof top garden is beautiful. I’d love to win a copy of the book.

  • irene 5 years ago

    looking forward to see the book & find out ideas for small spaces :)

  • Mindy 5 years ago

    I can’t get enough of Australia and it’s architecture. Would love to have a read before my upcoming trip to Melbourne.

  • Grace 5 years ago

    Love the stairs and the fantastic garden! I’d love to see more ideas for creative living spaces!

  • sylvia 5 years ago

    great ideas, we love inspiration especially in small spaces!

  • Andrew 5 years ago

    I hope this goes some way to ending the Australian fascination with the inefficient and ugly McMansions you see filling up areas and wasting space. Smaller houses have more creative input, are more practical and have a more engaging aesthetic.

  • tamara boldiston 5 years ago

    inspirational house

  • Catherine 5 years ago

    smaller is all we need. feels happier.

  • Frances G 5 years ago

    I’ve had a bit of an obsession with small houses since I started studying interior design… would be great to see some good Australian designs like the house featured, I’m sure the Japanese aren’t the only ones doing it really beautifully and effectively!

  • BETH 5 years ago

    when i saw this on grand designs it really inspired me and seeing it again still does.

  • meg 5 years ago

    Great book – and good to know that the Great Australian Dream, can indeed come in small packages with the amazing designs and use of small spaces with the houses featured in this book! Fantastic

  • Claire 5 years ago

    Most amazing rooftop courtyard I have seen! Couldn’t be more jealous!

  • Anna 5 years ago

    Love the crazy title!

  • Cam 5 years ago

    We are in the process of designing an 80m2 house, on a tricky south facing, steep site in Victoria ….on a shoestring budget! There have been many challenges in the process so far and we havnt even got to planning yet!. We plan on building much of the house ourselves.
    Love the look of the book…looking forward to reading more and hopefully getting some inspiration!

  • Claire 5 years ago

    Cannot wait to grab a copy of the book. Looks great and I hope to incorporate some on the ideas into our own small-house renovation. Your comment about Australia having the largest homes in the world reminded me of a fantastic project a Sydney team are undertaking to ‘reincarnate’ the site and materials of a McMansion into multiple smaller sustainable homes. Amazing: http://reincarnatedmcmansion.com/

  • Bronwyn 5 years ago

    Such a great idea doing more with less – we need more of it!

  • Sam 5 years ago

    Hopefully this book will inspire more creative and inspired ways of living rather than the mcmansion with no yard!

  • annie 5 years ago

    Inspiring architecture. Thanks

  • laura 5 years ago

    Going beyond the 1/4 acre block. Fantastic

  • jo 5 years ago

    I am in love with the font on the front cover! The book would look pretty great in my lap too.

  • Liza Zeni 5 years ago

    loving these posts this week, very inspiring thankyou!

  • Cathryn 5 years ago

    love those bottles.

  • Naren Bisseru 4 years ago

    Hi Stuart
    I wish to purchase a copy of your book FORTY-SIX SQUARE METRES OF LAND DOESN’T …
    Please advise bookshop that has copies as I am located in Durban, South Africa

You might also like

Cassy Morris
Tuesday 27th October 2015
Jo Hoban
Thursday 29th October 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 27th October 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 28th October 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 10th November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 17th November 2015
Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 24th November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Monday 2nd November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Friday 6th November 2015
by Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 4th November 2015