Top 10 'cottage' neighborhoods in the US  (© Cottage Living)

© Cottage Living

The best communities make us feel deep-down good. The kind of good that springs from inspiring design, from a sense of belonging, from taking care of ourselves and others, and from doing right by the environment. If you live in a cottage, you're probably already treading lightly on the planet. And if you live in a tight-knit community, chances are you belong.

The best communities care for the land as much as for the people, so we've focused on three land-use types: Greenfield, Infill and Adaptive Reuse. Developers of new neighborhoods are preserving open space. They're adopting green building principles, turning to more natural storm-water management systems and filling landscapes with native plants. And thanks to organic farms on shared community land, fresh food is more available than ever. That brings us back to the smiles: Great communities draw good neighbors.

What's your home worth?

The criteria
Each year, Cottage Living scours the country for the best cottage communities. Here's what we look for and the weight given each category:

Homes: 30%. Along with inspiring architecture, cottage-y scale and relative affordability, we look for unifying design elements and walkable streets.

People: 30%. Behind every great neighborhood are people: the residents who live there, those responsible for sparking a neighborhood comeback, and the designers and developers who had the vision to create something new.

Bright idea: 30%. Not only are the best communities fine places to live, but their innovations spur positive changes on a regional, and even national, level.

Cottage twist: 10%. Every one of these areas offers something unique that brings a smile.

The categories
A development on a previously unused tract of land — may have been pasture, forest or a tree farm. The best planners incorporate conservation easements and farmland in order to preserve the pristine, productive nature of the landscape.

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Infill: The redevelopment of a previously developed property. These neighborhoods, often compact, efficient and urban, fill in the footprints of existing buildings and sites.

Adaptive Reuse: The most low-impact approach, these projects actually reuse existing structures with minimal need for demolition and new materials. They’re often associated with older neighborhoods that have been considered social blight, which tarnishes their otherwise strong housing stock.

Top 10 'cottage' neighborhoods for 2008
See the slide show of these communities here.

1. Serenbe (Palmetto, Ga.)

2. Baldwin's Run (Camden, N.J.)

3. NorthWest Crossing (Bend, Ore.)

4. Parkview Neighborhood (Redding, Calif.)

5. Agritopia (Gilbert, Ariz.)

6. Arbolera de Vida (Albuquerque, N.M.)

7. Holiday Neighborhood (Boulder, Colo.)

8. Westside (Kansas, Mo.)

9. Noisette (North Charleston, S.C.)

10. Prairie Crossing (Grayslake, Ill.)

By Logan Ward; Produced by David Hanson, Cottage Living