With the cost of land soaring, builders are finding themselves in a quandary as they try to offer private outdoor spaces without going over budget on land costs.

As plot sizes have diminished, Irvine, Calif.-based Robert Hidey Architects has come up with a novel solution that incorporates expansive third-floor great rooms that open onto large terraces. For their production builder clients, architects at the firm are using these spaces as substitutes for the traditional backyard. The firm is currently involved in three such projects in California: two for Brookfield Residential, with third-floor great rooms that open through floor-to-ceiling retractable glass doors onto a covered terrace; and Toll Brothers’ on-the-boards Lexington project that will include homes with third-floor great rooms and decks.

Chris Barlow, project director at Robert Hidey Architects, says third-floor entertainment spaces are an economical way to add square footage to a home because they don't enlarge the roof area or the footprint of the building.

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