Built for a family who wished to house an elderly mother-in-law on their expansive California property while allowing her to retain her independent identity, this attractive contemporary house is the result of a collaboration with a Los Angeles-based prefab company to ensure that her needs were met. Set on a sparsely forested hill with a clear view for miles out its rear, the house has a fairly compact square floor plan, based on the “Connect 5” design by Connect Homes. The company’s staff worked with the family to ensure that their elderly family member would be safe, eliminating all stairways and installing a walk-in shower, among other tailored amenities. In addition, the homeowners exercised significant power over decor and finish decisions, dictating the use of wood on the exterior and certain furniture and layout decisions indoors. The result is a contemporary dwelling which is suited perfectly to its occupant’s tastes and physical requirements, keeping her close to her family while allowing her a house to herself. Because of the prefabricated nature of the structure and numerous intelligent choices inside, the house was also completed at a relatively minimal cost compared to similar modern dwellings.
The house’s location on the crest of a scenic hill leads to a natural orientation of the its largest windows and outdoor recreational spaces toward the downward-facing side. The exterior of the rectangular house is clad in vertical wood boards, accented by black-painted metal structural beams along its edges.
The deck wraps around one side of the dwelling, adding enough space for an outdoor dining area accessed from the living room. At its ends, the patio’s elevation is low enough relative to the land to allow the home’s elderly occupant to move on and off. At the rear of the house, a thinner patio porch provides a direct path into the dining room and master bedroom.
The interior of the house features a unique blend of contemporary and vintage appeal. Similar to the addition of natural wood tones to the boxy modern exterior of the building, Philippe Starck-designed Eros chairs and a midcentury table at the center of the living room provide a bright current-day contrast to the vintage rug and wooden side chairs.
A number of customizations were made to the initial design of the prefab house, beyond simply adapting its design for its occupant’s physical needs. The ceilings have been changed from their original metal finish, the living room has been expanded into space that was originally taken up by a covered patio in paper designs, and the homeowners were consulted on each decor and furniture choice.
The small house’s kitchen is its most thoroughly modern room, with glossy white tones dominating its counters, storage, and walls. All the room’s cabinetry is actually sourced from Ikea, however, helping to keep costs of the project in a reasonable realm.
At the dining table, near the rear of the house, another ubiquitous chair design comes into play (this time the Rowland 40/4, a favorite of conference centers, schools, and churches the world over). The yellow stacking chairs surround a thin framed glass table with enough space for the home’s occupant to share a meal with family and other guests.
The dwelling includes a free room at one hillside corner, perfect for becoming a second bedroom to house guests and eventually a caretaker once the elderly homeowner requires one.