The jewel-box home—small, but loaded with amenities and costly finishes—is luring more home buyers. An analysis by Home Innovation Research Labs, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders, found that the number of new-construction luxury homes at 3,000 square feet or less has increased nearly 20% since 2013—with a corresponding decline in larger-size, high-price homes.
Changing demographics might be driving the trend. More than half of all households now consist of single people or couples, U.S. Census Bureau data shows—with traditional nuclear families accounting for just 20%.
“Empty-nesters want to downsize, but they want luxury homes not starter homes—luxury kitchens, marble surfaces, all the latest and greatest,” said Tim Costello, CEO of Builder Homesite, a consortium whose New Home Source website—an online clearing house for new-construction homes—tracks home buyers’ preferences.
The project’s owner runs a 5-story apartment. In the past, the rooftop was only used to keep water tanks, leaving a lot of empty space. The owner, therefore, wished to build a small house there for his own use. The rooftop location is an interestingly unique context that sets this project apart from other housing designs. Instead of a normal ground, this house has a concrete courtyard. Trees are replaced with vertical lines of tall buildings in the Lat Phrao district.
Our idea was not to make this house feel like a building, but to free it from form. We wanted it to be just a borderless box that emerges out of nowhere in the sky, as if the thickness of the wall and roof were non-existent, but still able to make holes in the ceiling to install curtains, air conditioners, and embed lights. Our intention was to give an illusion to onlookers that the entire ceiling was in the same straight line even though we featured a drop ceiling and a slope that was intentionally used to make the wall and ceiling look thin.
“The jury was unanimous in celebrating this inventive solution to reconfiguring a dilapidated Japanese colonial house.
A dynamic whole in constant flux, the house in unusually in tune with the differing and sometimes contradictory needs of a young family. Every space can be negotiated and adapted, encouraging the house to be an incubator for positive difference in the family unit.
Sensitivity abounds, both in the design process and the outcome. Local craftspeople were drafted in when needed; recycled elements were mixed freely with new. The result has a uniquely sloppy fit for its inhabitants, a fit that can evolve freely over time.
Ladders to the roof level encourage ongoing hide and seek. Internal space leaks into a garden, itself an outdoor room. Light penetrates in unexpected ways, and occasional views of the sky offset the otherwise congested urban setting.
Against the background of rapid development in Taipei, this project has the potential to be a ‘prototype’ that may help reevaluate the existing stock of Japanese houses.”
The reality, however, is that modular, prefabricated housing can exceed the limitations put upon it by popular conceptions of trailer parks and postwar government housing. Not only are they certainly faster – an important factor in cost, as the cost of land and construction have as much as doubled in some parts of America within the past decade – but also of a higher quality.
Looking toward the expected lifespan of these homes, due to the precision of factory construction and the availability of new materials, some prefab or modular homes have the potential to even outlast traditionally-built, on-site housing.
A far cry from the “prefabs” of the 1950s, modules can be manufactured off-site in factories, in a cutting edge process of designing and building homes that can drive real change in an industry that has seen little change in centuries. Modular manufacturing permits us to get down to a level of detail and robustness that traditional architects, structural engineers and mechanical and electrical engineering consultants do not normally go into.
Most notable is Toogood’s sensitive approach to materials. She offers two different, equally alluring solutions to the exterior cladding and the internal finishes. Both external cladding options, raw galvanised steel and dark charred timber, are suggestive of industrial or agricultural structures, making it something of a thrill to see them in a domestic setting. The building clad in raw galvanised steel will have a refined, cream-coloured interior, whilst the structure clad in dark charred timber will have an exposed plywood interior finish.
Faye Toogood’s beguiling design for Cube Haus Commissions proposes a sanctuary that suits both rural and urban contexts. With a simple pitched-roof, single-storey form, it evokes the sort of ordinary, often-ignored buildings that have been built across Britain for centuries. But this being the work of Toogood, a revered designer across multiple disciplines, the scheme that she has created is far from being artless.
This model is going to be completely off-grid in its seaside location. On the roof are 6 x Trina 270w Honey Poly Module panels. A storage box over the tow bar stores the inverter and 4 x C&D 12V 192Ah c20 FT Lead Carbon Cyclic Batteries that will power the home. A new feature in this home (requested by the client) was a folding shelf in the bathroom above the toilet.
This can be lifted up to store clean clothes etc while showering. The bookshelves and lift-up cubby storage in the loft are super practical, as is the tall wardrobe, and walking platform which allows you to stand comfortably in the loft.
“If one imagines a list of the greatest, most influential houses of the twentieth century, it seems highly likely that the mid-century period will dominate,” writes Bradbury in the book’s introduction, going on to name such famous edifices as the three famous glass houses by Philip Johnson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Lino Bo Bardi, respectively; Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House; and Luis Barragán’s Cuadra San Cristóbal. “One could, of course, go on.…” he writes.
In the design world, is there any style that’s having more of a Renaissance moment than midcentury modern? It’s everywhere, from luxury hotels to high-end residential interiors to mainstream furniture lines from the likes of CB2 and Anthropologie, and it’s showing little sign of slowing down. In the midst of this revival, writer Dominic Bradbury, who has contributed to Architectural Digest, has compiled what might just be one of the most comprehensive books ever to be published on the subject.