A Cape Cod Prefab Fans Out Toward the Forest in Three Tapering Branches
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A Cape Cod Prefab Fans Out Toward the Forest in Three Tapering Branches

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By Lucy Wang
In Cape Cod, a low-impact prefab pays tribute to the region’s experimental midcentury homes.

When a photographer was ready to retire from her long nonprofit career in Boston, she knew exactly where she’d head next—to an Outer Cape Cod town she had visited for decades. She had fallen in love with the windswept landscapes, the art-filled culture, and the abundance of oysters.

Picking the right architecture firm to design her new home was also a straightforward choice. "I would pass one of Stack + Co.’s first buildings—The Box Office, which is made from shipping containers—on the Amtrak train when I went through Providence," says the client. "I looked at other architecture firms and knew other architects, but I liked Stack’s modernist approach, and I knew I wanted to explore a factory-made home."

Located on a remote and steeply sloped plot in the forest, the Warp House takes cues from Cape Cod’s low-impact, experimental midcentury houses—such as the nearby Hatch Cottage by Jack Hall.

Inspired by the gridded aesthetic of Cape Cod’s midcentury modern houses, Boston-based Stack + Co. designed a 1,800-square-foot home composed of three tapering prefabricated modules—an unusual departure from the conventional rectangular modules—elevated above the ground on a steel frame and clad in barn board pine with a Swedish black pine tar finish.

The client told the architects that she didn’t want any stairs in her new single-story home, which is fitted with an entrance ramp.

The modules "float" above the landscape to minimize site impact.

"While looking at nearby examples of experimental homes, we noted a rigorous grid and modularity of construction—even though by and large these structures were site built," says Andrew Wade Keating, Principal at Stack + Co. "Our thought process was to utilize off-site fabrication techniques to create a similar logic, and create a strong sense of the informal, unfussy, do-it-yourself spirit of the artist’s retreat."

"The name Warp House comes from the challenges of constructing these ‘warped’ modules in comparison to the standard boxes prefabricators normally construct," note the architects.

Oriented to face the west, the interconnected modules fan out to provide three slightly different views of the adjacent gully between two rises in the landscape.

"I was drawn to the idea of a factory-made home because you didn’t have to worry about the weather, or securing tools, or a lot of damage to the site—because the house comes to the site," adds the client, who minimized potential roadblocks by purchasing property outside of a homeowner’s association that was also free of deed restrictions and design approval requirements. "I also liked that you have all the trades there under one roof, so you don’t have to schedule and wait for the plumber to show up; the plumber is there, the electrician is there."

The tapering modules were delivered from the factory to the field, and then set into place with a crane.

The Warp House was constructed in 14 months, with six months spent on the design. Of the remaining eight months of construction, approximately half that time was spent preparing the site and utilities.

Although the midcentury grid provided a starting point for the design, the home deviates from the orthogonal—it’s composed of three non-standard tapering modules that are nested together to create serial views of the landscape. The connection to the outdoors is strengthened with the addition of an expansive site-built timber deck, large glazed openings, and a natural material palette.

"The Swedish black pine tar stain is a heritage process that we have employed on several projects, and it is always a joy to perpetuate this technique," says Keating of the exterior finish.

The module ends are clad in cedar planks with a gray Swedish vitriol stain.

Pre-engineered dark stained bamboo flooring closely mimics the exterior decking material, creating a fluid transition from the interior to the exterior.

The interiors are furnished with midcentury pieces—including this vintage Eames Aluminum Group chair.

"The fireplace/bookcase wall installation takes cues from the Cado Shelving System, and also works to flatten the classic hovering fireplace into a gesture that is engaged with the wall," says Keating. "Usability and modularity are both important elements of an interior that in some ways is like one big studio containing the objects of—and inspirations for—the client’s artistic interests."

Flanked by bold pops of color, the minimalist kitchen includes quartz countertops and custom white-painted timber cabinetry.

"Warp House uses offsite fabrication and an integrated architecture and construction approach to bring the tradition of Cape Cod experimental houses forward into the 21st century," says the firm.

A peek inside the light-filled office on the north side of the house.

The master bedroom is furnished with V-leg beside tables and a bed from Modernica’s Case Study Furniture line.

The bathroom follows universal design principles with its spacious walk-in shower and grab bar. The floors are dark pebble tile.

Warp House floor plan

Related Reading:

5 Massachusetts Prefab Home Companies to Watch

10 Modern Prefab Homes That Cost Less Than $100,000

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Stack + Co. / @stack.and.co

Builder/General Contractor: Stack + Co.

Structural Engineer: Stuctures Workshop

Civil Engineer: Ryder and Wilcox 

Lighting Design/Interior Design: Stack + Co.

Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Mod Logic (Formerly NRB)

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