Cute Couple Alert: Modern Prefab Poolhouse Addition to a 1920s Sears Kit House

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By Kelsey Keith / Published by Dwell
A Boston family chose a double dose of prefab for an addition to their home in the Massachusetts countryside.

Jed and Asia Webber weren’t actively seeking a prefab existence when they bought property in Groton, Massachusetts—an hour away from their home base in Cambridge, where they run a restaurant group. But the modest, sturdy frame house they fell in love with had a surprisingly modular history: It’s the Dillman model, a Sears, Roebuck and Company kit house from 1928. The Webbers, who have three children, required more space than the original structure could provide at 1,400 square feet. But since the house was "so symmetrical and appropriate for its time," Jed Webber says, "we couldn’t wrap our heads around any sort of addition that wouldn’t look like an afterthought." Instead, they looked online to find a prefab builder who could construct a similarly sized structure on their land. 

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A prefab pool- and guesthouse designed by LABhaus frames views of a Massachusetts property’s original structure, a Dillman model Sears, Roebuck kit house from 1928.

Asia Webber, an intrepid fittings and materials scout for the family’s restaurant business, happened upon LABhaus, a prefab manufacturer based in the northeastern United States. The family’s main ask was a wall of sliding doors that could open up to the yard—a holdover from their sojourn in San Francisco. "We loved the indoor-outdoor space that comes with living in California—which of course doesn’t have the winter or the bugs that we do now," says Jed Webber. Overall, they wanted something very modern, which fit with LABhaus’s aesthetic, and a structure that they could use as an extension of living space for their family of five. 

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The 1970s burlwood dresser is originally from a Palm Beach estate. Modernist sculptures throughout the house are by artist Costantino Nivola; abstract artwork is by Charles Schorre.

The new 1,000-square-foot addition is situated next to a swimming pool, with a terrace protected by an overhang, which, from the backyard, frames views of the original house. "Because it is such a large property," LABhaus architect Sara-Ann Logan says, "we wanted to scatter these buildings—like throwing stones—so we created a loosely gathered compound connected by deck surfaces." The Garapa wood deck connects the old kit house to the new pool house, which includes a small kitchen, great room, outdoor dining room, laundry room, bathroom, and den. (Given the town’s building restrictions, the den isn’t technically a bedroom since it’s lacking a closet; to compensate, the architects added an extra-large closet in the laundry.) The Webbers, along with their children—Nina, 11, Gage, eight, and Tess, six—usually eat breakfast in the new addition and continue back and forth between the two buildings all day—except for, perhaps, in the middle of a Massachusetts snowstorm.

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The great room has a collection of vintage furniture finds, including a 1980s burled-elmwood-and-chrome coffee table found on Ebay. The sofa was another secondhand score, believed to be a 1950s Edward Wormley piece for Dunbar. Newer additions are a jute rug from overstock.com and a side table from Target.

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LABhaus designed the custom cabinetry for the mini-kitchen in the great room; the articulated faucet is by Kohler.

The main design feature of the mostly-prefabricated unit was actually built onsite: a five-panel, sliding glass door corner leading from the living space onto the deck. Considering the Webbers’ modest budget, LABhaus was concerned the residents couldn’t get the kind of system they wanted for less than $50,000. So the company tapped into its network of modular manufacturers in Pennsylvania and eventually stumbled across Solar Innovations, an aluminum door and window company that typically works in the commercial sector. "They have their own engineering department," Logan says, "and because they’re a custom manufacturer, they don’t shy away from hard projects." LABhaus plans to keep using Solar Innovations’ product line for future projects, a tactic that costs time and money on the front end but establishes an efficient pipeline for standardizing units.

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The residents scored the Saarinen-style table at Brimfield Antique Show for only $200. A Java ceiling fan by Minka-Aire helps circulate the breeze on the pool patio. The decking is made of six-inch-wide Garapa with hidden fastening clips. The dining chairs are from Ikea.

Logan points out that LABhaus’s strength as a prefab company is its ability to source go-to modular systems for doors, cabinetry, and fixtures that can be reused in multiple projects with different finishes. "As an architect, it’s fun for me to spend hours researching, but only a certain amount of the population can pay someone to do that," Logan says. "Let’s figure out how to make beautiful design choices accessible to more people."

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The addition, which was built offsite save for the sliding glass door system, includes an outdoor shower and a 500-square-foot covered loggia.

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The aluminum sliding glass door system, manufactured by Solar Innovations, comprises five seamless panels that meet at the corner.

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LABhaus uses standard paint colors from Sherwin-Williams and tweaks them according to lighting conditions throughout the day. “Snowbound is a rich white that doesn’t wash out,” says architect Sara-Ann Logan.

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The horizontal detailing for the rain screen reinterprets the clapboard cladding of the old house.

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The unofficial guest room features a West Elm bed, marble side tables from CB2, lamps from Target, and bedding from Ikea. The flokati rug and Murano glass chandelier are both vintage.

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LABhaus Floor Plan

A Deck

B Pool

C Great Room

D Kitchen

E Laundry Room

F Bathroom

G Guest Room