This Prominent U.K. Prefab Builder Is Scaling Up From Cabins to Custom Residences

Design firm Koto is known for its geometric modular homes, but is now offering architect-designed residences in its signature “Japandi” style.

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With the amount of prefabs on the market today, the term has all but become a synonym for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), backyard homes, granny flats, tiny homes, and cabins. But one company that’s designed its share of those is now thinking a little bit bigger.

With its off-the-shelf modular cabins that emphasize biophilic design, Koto caters to hoteliers, start-ups, and residential landowners. Its new offering, Koto House,  is the company’s first foray into custom, architect-design prefab residences.

Courtesy of Koto

U.K. design firm Koto has just announced it will offer custom architect-designed modular residences, all of which will carry the company’s sculptural forms, jet-black yakisugi cladding, and Japandi aesthetic. According to company cofounder Johnathon Little, the new offering, called Koto House, is a direct response to consumer perception. "Modular is becoming a more respected and competitive method for delivering both homes and cabins in a sustainable and controlled manner," he claims.

In parallel with Koto House, the firm has also launched Koto Living, an in-house studio dedicated to interior design and an expansion that promises clients a higher level of bespoke detailing compared to the company’s off-the-shelf models.

"We founded Koto in 2017 to create conscious, Scandinavian-inspired modular structures that correspond with and complement nature’s beauty with a brand and lifestyle approach at the forefront," says Koto cofounder Zoe Little. An extension of those principles, the first Koto House is located in Claddach Valley, a small town in the northwest of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Courtesy of Koto

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The interiors of the home in North Uist are by Koto Living, the firm’s new interiors studio, which is led by company cofounder Johnathon Little’s sister, Kirstie Little. The studio’s focus is on natural materials and texture, creating a connection between the house and its environment.

Courtesy of Koto

Koto’s first proof of concept is in North Uist, an island in the remote Outer Hebrides of Scotland. "After our our client-to-be obtained the land in 2020, it quickly became apparent due to the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions there that a traditional on-site build would be a costly and very time consuming process," says Johnathon. "So modular construction seemed like an option worth exploring for them."

The Koto House celebrates a connection with the outdoors with the use of expansive windows and living spaces that open onto decking.

Courtesy of Koto

The company would prefer to include expansive glazing in all its future designs. "The large windows are particularly special as they take full advantage of the otherworldly views, light and wide Hebridean skies," says Theo Dales, one of Koto’s cofounders.

Courtesy of Koto

Dales continues, "We created the family home to maximize sweeping views."

Courtesy of Koto

The roughly 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom home was built in the U.K. by Koto’s exclusive build partner, Unos Systems, and then delivered by road and sea as seven modules. The team craned the modules into position before "stitching" them together to complete the build. As Johnathon touches on above, where access or climate pose challenges for traditional construction, prefab has the potential to provide a swifter solution.

Since its inception, Koto has gone deeper into its appreciation of Japanese design, says Johnathon, homing in on its focus on social functionality. Over time, the company has married that principle with Scandinavia’s minimalism to arrive at a "Japandi" style.

Courtesy of Koto

Koto says it designs its home to run on renewables rather than fossil fuels. "We also tend to approach projects with a ‘fabric first’ mentality, creating high-performance envelopes that limit the amount of energy required," says Dales.

Courtesy of Koto

Koto says its new homes will primarily be built with timber from FSC-certified sustainable forests. "Each of our projects is different, but our aim is for each home to sequester more carbon than it emits," Kristie says.

Courtesy of Koto

Koto is also promising buyers a fixed-price model. Where supply chain issues, labor shortages, or unforeseen site challenges can lead to cost increases in traditional building, stalling progress or blowing up budgets, the firm says its building method makes it easy to deliver its custom designs at an agreed-upon cost.

In addition to designing the interiors, Koto Living can guide clients in choosing furnishings.

Courtesy of Koto

Natural materials complement the landscape in North Uist and create a timeless look for the interiors.

Courtesy of Koto

The muted, earthy tones continue in the bathroom.

Courtesy of Koto

Black timber and a vessel sink complement large-format tiles in the bathroom.

Courtesy of Koto

While the company claims its homes are more affordable than conventional builds, it declined to reveal pricing, saying that each home is unique and costs are dependent on location and the brief. (For reference, its smallest off-the-shelf design, the roughly 177-square-foot Pari Cabin, starts at $42,000.)

On the heels of the home in North Uist, Koto says it currently has a number of projects in the design phase or in construction in factories in the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and the U.S., and plans to expand to more countries in 2023.

The roofs pitches align with the landscape’s different slopes, creating a sympathetic composition. The exterior is clad in burnt larch timber and features expansive glazing that embraces the views, timber floors, and natural stone details.

Courtesy of Koto

More from Koto:

These Beach Shack–Inspired Prefabs Along U.K.’s North Sea Are Big on Nature

Koto Just Unveiled a New Backyard Prefab Cabin for $75K



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