Fifty-seven hundred square feet — the size of a recently-built house in Utah for a family of four, as reported in The Bangor Daily News. MDI architect John Gordon thinks such a home might be a tad big.

“Just insane,” Gordon said.

Gordon could be said to work at the opposite end of the spectrum with Gordon-Stanley Architecture. Last year, a home design of his won the state housing authority’s green home design contest and was selected as a model for a planned affordable housing neighborhood in Somesville (WWF March 06). Gordon said most American homes are two to three times larger than their European counterparts, a design trend he believes this country can no longer afford with its dependence on foreign oil and the threat of global warming.

“We need to be thinking about doing more with less,” he said.

So Gordon was excited to learn of two small homes in Franklin with far fewer square feet than the national norm. Sarina and Ben Speed and their son live in a 640-square foot home, while Becka and Jeff Gagne and their two children live in a two-story home measuring roughly 600 square feet. While their two homes are very different, their approach to house-building and the reasons for building a small home are very similar.

For the Gagnes, it wasn’t a lack of building experience that made them choose to build a smaller home. Jeff is a carpenter and it shows; like any good Maine homestead, the Gagne land has outbuildings scattered everywhere. But Becka Gagne lived in a succession of small homes, including a 12 x 10 converted artist’s studio when she met her husband. If anything, she said, he helped her think larger.

“He sort of civilized me, I like to say,” she laughed.

A small home is a natural fit since the two (and now their children) spend so much time outside on their fruit and vegetable farm. It helped, too, that they aggressively kept their belongings to a minimum.

“We call it pruning,” she said.

With a child on the way, the Gagnes were able to erect the home quickly and at an incredibly low price of $10,000, with the aid of salvaged material. That price tag includes solar panels and site work.

The home’s interior is a cozy place to visit on a wintry day and a perfect nighttime shelter in the summer. Because of the limited floor-plan, every corner of the home gets good southern exposure, while a small woodstove is all that’s needed to keep the home toasty in winter.

“We only burn about a cord of wood a winter,” Gagne said.

Admittedly, the Gagnes have already broken ground on a bigger home. The catalyst: two mobile children and a mother’s longing for more play-space.

“You wish you could have a little more room so they could be messier,” she said.

But don’t picture a McMansion. When all is said and done, the home will measure roughly one-half the 2,400 square foot national average, including a root cellar and possible indoor sauna.

Sarina Speed also grew up in a small home, but she said the small-home concept actually was a compromise. She and her husband, Ben, wanted a solar-powered home, but didn’t have the money, so they went to plan B instead.

“I wanted to build a very energy-efficient house,” Speed said.

They succeeded in doing more than that. With a polished feel and colorful interior walls, the home calls to mind more an Italian vacation bungalow than an earnest energy-saving home. Speed said many people can make small-home design work, it just takes forethought.

“We did a lot of research,” she said. “A lot of it comes down to planning.”

They bought their house plan from Tumbleweed Tiny Houses and modified it to their tastes. Every corner of the home is designed for space-saving and comfort, with appliances either built into walls or smaller than the norm.

Like the Gagnes, the Speeds saved money both in construction and maintenance costs. It cost $55,000 to construct the home and their electric bill is about $20 a month.

While they’re not planning any home additions, Speed said they might consider it once their little toddler is a teenager. But they won’t add much.

“I doubt it will ever pass above 1000 square feet,” she said.

Architect Gordon said the home design style of the two Franklin homes will probably become more popular if the cost of heating oil continues to rise. And, as these homes prove, small can mean comfortable, too.

“We’re just trying to convince people to build better,” he said. “It’s quantity versus quality,” he said.