At that moment Steve, The Kim and I collectively agreed that we would strive to create something really special on our site…and we haven’t looked back since


As I’ve mention in the previous sections…if you’re able to hire an architect before finding and buying a piece land, I would recommend it. A good architect can point out things that you might not be thinking about and also let you know what the realities really are for the project you are contemplating.

Hindsight is always 20/20 they say! Well, The Kim and I now had our land, so it was off to find our house. As I mentioned earlier, our original goal was to put up a modern prefab like the ones that graced the pages of Dwell Magazine…and because of this we figured we didn’t really need an architect if we were going to buy one of these pre-designed, built in a factory houses. It’s designed and done right? Why would you need an architect for that?? Well, you live and you learn!

So we drove up to Menlo Park to see the Sunset Magazine festival where Michelle Kaufmann had her first prefab, The Glide House, set up. At the projected cost of $132.00 a square foot we were excited to see it. When we arrived Michelle gave her presentation and then we were able to walk through the house…it was very nice and felt like a solid real house. It had beautiful finishes, flooring, decks, Jacuzzi…the works! After touring the house and asking questions about what was included in $132.00 a square foot we came to find that the house we were in was more like $160.00 to $170.00 a square foot due to the upgraded windows, flooring, counter tops and other finishings. The decks are another big extra that are not included in that price. The other non-included costs are shipping the house down from Canada…which if I remember right was about 8k per module and site costs like foundation work, utilities, etc.

It was a very nice house but at that time for us the price was a bit more than we imagined spending on a prefab…also due to the fact that our lot didn’t have much of a flat pad, we were pretty sure that their floor plan configurations wouldn’t work with our lot.

Next we contacted Marmol-Radziner out of Santa Monica, California. We saw their Dwell Home submission for the first Dwell contest and my wife and I fell in love with it. Marmol-Radziner’s approach to prefab at that time was a bit different in that they were doing sort of a custom built prefab…one that could be built in a factory and but still custom designed for the site.

If you’ve ever seen a house designed by Marmol-Radziner or any of their restoration work on Schindler, Neutra and Lautners homes, you know that these guys are some of the best architects out there. Their quote for building us one of their custom prefabs was less than half of what they would charge for their custom built homes and from what we saw of the renderings and materials it would be equal in its quality. Sadly, at the time we were coming to the conclusion that some of the other costs, like bringing water and septic to the site, were going to be far greater than what we thought and thus prohibit us from building all together.

It was around that time The Kim and I realized that for our particular piece of land it was looking like a prefab was out of the question. When all was said and done it was going to cost us about the same as a custom built home, so we began to rethink our situation.

After further research it became apparent that the real benefit of going prefab is peace of mind. With prefab a client decides on their favorite floor plan and all the fit a finishes…by the time they place their order, they get a fixed cost and a known timeline when the work will be done. The other really big benefit for the client is that they are getting a house designed by a great architect, and if the client was able to visit one of the existing prefabs, they can see exactly what the house will look like before they build it.

A very nice couple who was attending the Sunset Magazine festival that day The Kim and I were there were actually buying a Glide House for just those reasons…they loved the design and the fact that it would be built and delivered on a set time line and come in on budget. The only hitch is that the prefab has to work for the land that you have…for our situation we started to realize that our land would most likely need a custom built home.

After a few calls to local architects I found that most charged between 13 to 18% of the total projected cost of project…The Kim and I started to feel that what we were looking to accomplish might be a little out of reach.

At this point we decided that maybe selling the land was the best idea. We put it back on the market for a few months and it was during this time that we met our Architect, Steve Yett.

On the way out to the land one day I saw a sign on the side of the road. The sign had a phone number and the name of a contractor for a house that was being built on the lot above. I knew deep down that I didn’t want to sell the land that The Kim and I worked so hard to get and I thought maybe this builder could give me some new insight on what to do with our land. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the number and he answered it. I explained to the builder how The Kim and I bought the land with the idea to do a prefab…but was now unsure of what to do with the land now that we had ruled that out…and that we’d talked to a handful of architects…but their quotes and fees were quite a bit more than we could handle at the time. He invited me up to his house in progress…it was great house with amazing views. After talking for a bit he told me of his architect and insisted that I give him a call.

That day I called Steve and we hit it off right away. As it turns out, Steve’s expertise is designing and building in the Malibu area. I set up a meeting so that The Kim and I could both meet him together after talking a while he was able to answer all our questions and concerns and refill us with a sense that we should keep the land and build on our site.

As it turns out Steve, The Kim and I share a love for the more adventuresome side of organic architecture. As we talked that day and told Steve who our favorite architects were his jaw dropped to the floor and his eyes got really wide and he said, “you guys are my dream clients…the architects you just mentioned were the reason I wanted to become an one!” At that moment Steve, The Kim and I collectively agreed that we would strive to create something really special on our site…and we haven’t looked back since.

The Kim and I were convinced after meeting with Steve that he completely understood the kind of architecture we were looking for and while it would have been easier and maybe a little more safe to hand Steve a bunch of magazine clippings and architectural books marked with pages of our favorite houses we wanted him to “knock off”, in the spirit of adventure we instead decided to just hand him a typed list of basic room requirements and let him go wild. I have to say that The Kim and I had very little involvement in the initial design and concept that Steve came up with and I have to say that his ideas and creativity far surpassed anything we were imagining for the site. What a gift it is to be able to work with the truly talented!

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