Thomas J. Story

We partnered with prefab home firm Modern Cabana to create a compelling model of modular small-space living

The Challenge

Even in frugal times—perhaps even because of them—we’re all craving just a little more room. Not an over-the-top home addition, but a bit more square footage for a quiet work area that nurtures creativity and efficiency. And while we’re at it, how about separate quarters for a boomerang kid or visiting in-laws?

Modest sanity-saving, soul-feeding spaces were just what we had in mind when we partnered with Modern Cabana, a San Francisco, California–based prefab firm, and other sponsors to create our modular, eco-friendly Modern Cottage Idea House.

The Result

The firm came up with a prefabricated guest suite and home office that work separately as versatile bonus spaces, yet are connected by a breezeway and shade-providing willow panel in between. The breezeway both unifies the space and acts as an outdoor dining room, perfect for an alfresco meal for two or a small dinner party. Also along the exterior, the myriad outdoor "rooms"deck, outdoor shower, and low-water garden—further expand the living space, making the prefab home and its surroundings function as a great model of minimalist indoor-outdoor living.

The Details

The interior of the modular cottage emphasizes double-duty furnishings that maximize space. The sofa also functions as a pull-out bed, while its cushions can be used indoors as well as outside on the deck furniture, as the textile is actually a durable outdoor fabric.

The California prefab home designers also kept an eco-conscious sensibility when selecting furniture and finishings. Sustainable bamboo flooring lines the interior of both of the units. When building the desk in the office annex desk, they used a salvaged door and topped it with frosted glass. In a creative twist, they hung the tabletop from the ceiling instead of attaching it to legs (which consequently freed up additional floor space below).

The Cost

The structures start at $11,500 for the 10- by 12-foot unit and $31,000 for the 12- by 25-foot one. With upgrades, such as appliances, ours came in at $16,500 (home office) and $72,500 (guest suite), respectively.