Bill and Abbie Burton have experienced their share of construction drama. The Solana Beach, California– based landscape architects have been working together for 25 years, overhauling landscapes and buildings alike. So when the time came to build a vacation house on the 330-acre oak-speckled woodland they purchased in Mendocino County, nine-and-a-half hours north of their main residence, they opted for the easy way out: a custom prefab house designed by Los Angeles firm Marmol Radziner. "We weren’t able to make lots of trips up here, so we couldn’t babysit the process," says Bill. "Stick-built construction requires a lot of hand-holding. Going prefab made it pretty seamless."
The couple met with the firm just six times to hammer out the design: a two-bedroom, 2,200- square-foot house with an additional 1,440 square feet of covered decks. Made up of ten prefabricated steel modules, the structure took three months to build in Marmol Radziner’s dedicated factory, including installation of all cabinetry, plumbing, fixtures, and drywall. The modules were trucked to the site one morning, and were swiftly craned into place atop concrete block piers.
"We literally sat on the hill in lawn chairs and watched the house come together," says Bill. "It was instantaneous. We went from having just a foundation on our site to walking around our house a few hours later. You never see architecture come together like that." Six weeks later the finish work was complete—seams where the modules met were patched, an 18-foot kitchen island was installed—and the Burtons moved in.
When not writing, editing, or combing design magazines and blogs for inspiration, Jaime Gillin is experimenting with new recipes, traveling as much as possible, and tackling minor home-improvement projects that inevitably turn out to be more complex than anticipated.