A Petite Prefab House with Grand Off-the-Grid Aspirations
A family creates an idyllic weekend retreat in Paso Robles that revolves around nature
Leilani Marie Labong
March 17, 2017
| Updated August 28, 2019
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Take the living outside
While visiting New Zealand with their three kids, Grant and Shaya Kirkpatrick fell in love with what the locals call the bach lifestyle. “We’d see Kiwis pack up their car, throw a kayak on the roof, and head out to a rural cottage to spend the weekend,” says Grant. “It was a big inspiration.” So when they returned to their home in Los Angeles, they started seeking out their own get-away-from-it-all space—and found it on a 30-acre lakeside parcel of golden grass and stately oaks near Paso Robles, California.
Grant, who’s an architect, designed a low-slung, 1,000-square-foot prefab dwelling inspired by Cliff May’s iconic ranch houses. The imminent plan is for Split Rock to surpass its humble beginnings with a full array of solar panels, taking the homestead—which already has its own groundwater supply and septic system—completely off the grid. “We feel a real sense of accomplishment here,” says Grant. “But we realize that much of that came from the ability to appreciate the serenity.”
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Choose long-lasting materials
Grant engineered low-pitched roofs made of aluminum, which needs less maintenance and often lasts longer than shingles. The 3-foot-deep overhang keeps the windows shaded on sunny days and dry on rainy ones.
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A redwood table is set amid the oaks, creating a magical little dining space. Above the table, Grant arranged pendant lamps on tension wires, one high and one low, to achieve a random pattern. He always uses halogen bulbs outdoors. “They’ll probably never need replacing,” he says.
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Play it safe
“Fire’s a scary thing here,” says Shaya. “Although we love our fireplace, we are really cautious.” The custom Corten steel fireplace features a pulley door that seals off the flames when it’s time to turn in. Dead trees and dry brush are cleared regularly, and three 5,000-gallon reserve water tanks are always hooked up to hydrants.
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Build in hiding spots
At just 1,000 square feet, the home doesn’t have a lot of room for extraneous furniture. Grant designed a large in-wall storage unit for the living room as well as spacious wardrobes for each of the bedrooms. He used Forest Stewardship Council–certified alder, an inexpensive hardwood that brings out the grain of the sustainable cork floors.
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“The kitchen is all about maximum function in minimum space,” says Grant. “Everything has to be able to store cleanly.” The alderwood cabinets (top right) have drawer pullouts and racks to pack away all utensils; pantry items and cleaning supplies are stashed in a more generous cabinet across the living room.
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Harness the sun
During the day, large windows and French doors (right) let the sun pour in. “At night, we use battery-powered candles to save electricity and create a cozy mood,” says Grant. The solar panels he plans to install next year will cover the home’s already low energy needs.