Architect and prefab purveyor Geoffrey Warner, AIA, says most of the requests for his modern, modular weeHouses are for use as vacation homes. It's no secret that clients often feel freer to experiment with style and program in second homes, says the principal of St. Paul, Minn.-based Alchemy Architects. “The desire to get things done quickly is also a factor,” he adds. These drivers were front and center when Warner's client commissioned him to produce a 504-square-foot weeHouse on 30,000 acres in Marfa, Texas. “The town is remote and the supply of labor is limited,” the architect explains, making the situation ideal for a prefabrication solution.
Built in a factory in Utah, the house arrived 100 percent complete in two modules: a 36-foot-by-14-foot main volume—containing a large living/kitchen/sleeping area and a bathroom—and a 4-foot-by-14-foot outdoor shed. Warner oriented the house on an east-west axis to maximize views and light, but he designed a south-facing shading element to cut down on heat gain from the floor-to-ceiling glass.
Despite its seemingly simple design, the house “ended up being a fairly custom project,” Warner says. The client opted for fiber-cement siding and chose bamboo floors and walls, high-end fixtures, name-brand windows, IKEA cabinets, and solid-surface counters. A split-wall air conditioner provides cooling, and an on-demand tank heater takes care of in-floor radiant heat and hot water needs. A planned solar array will provide electricity.
The house is petite by any measure, but generous outdoor deck areas expand the living outside. Says Warner: “The landscape is the square footage. This is the calling card for the idea that you can live elegantly in a small space.”
project: Marfa weeHouse, Marfa, Texas
architect: Alchemy Architects, St. Paul, Minn.
factory builder: Irontown Homes, Provo, Utah
general contractor: Fine Lines, Alpine, Texas
project size: 504 square feet (conditioned space)
site size: 30,000 acres
construction cost: $280 per square foot (excluding site work)
photography: Scott Ervin/Alchemy Architects