12 Prefab Guesthouses You'll Want to Put in Your Own Backyard

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By Kate Reggev
For those who need more space fast, a prefabricated guesthouse is just the thing.

Whether it be to accommodate a growing family, visiting friends, or a vacation rental business, a modular guesthouse can be a time- and cost-effective alternative to more traditional builds or remodels. From the mountains of Spain to the backyards of Connecticut, we take a look at some prefabricated guesthouses that we can’t get enough of.

1. Cabana Beach by Cubicco

Cubicco’s prefab houses, like the Cabana Beach model, are built with laminated veneer lumber, an engineered material that uses up to 90 percent of a tree—compared to typical wood timbers that use only 60 to 70 percent. Modules can be disassembled if the owners relocate, and the Cabana Beach model in particular is well-suited to use as a guesthouse because of its smaller size.

Cubicco’s prefab houses, like the Cabana Beach model, are built with laminated veneer lumber, an engineered material that uses up to 90 percent of a tree—compared to typical wood timbers that use only 60 to 70 percent. Modules can be disassembled if the owners relocate, and the Cabana Beach model in particular is well-suited to use as a guesthouse because of its smaller size.

This highly personalized prefab home has already been on the move: designed by architect William Massie, the home was built in sections that were then transported to its current site on a lawn outside of an art museum, where it awaits its new owner. Its all-white exterior and steel frame make it modern, but its uniquely shaped windows give it a one-of-a-kind look that make it perfect for use as a guesthouse.

This highly personalized prefab home has already been on the move: designed by architect William Massie, the home was built in sections that were then transported to its current site on a lawn outside of an art museum, where it awaits its new owner. Its all-white exterior and steel frame make it modern, but its uniquely shaped windows give it a one-of-a-kind look that make it perfect for use as a guesthouse.

Constructed out of structural insulated panels (SIPS), the Element House is a modular building that was designed to operate independently of public utilities by instead employing passive systems and on-site energy generation. The house functions as a guesthouse and visitor center for Star Axis, a nearby land art project by the artist Charles Ross in New Mexico.

Constructed out of structural insulated panels (SIPS), the Element House is a modular building that was designed to operate independently of public utilities by instead employing passive systems and on-site energy generation. The house functions as a guesthouse and visitor center for Star Axis, a nearby land art project by the artist Charles Ross in New Mexico.

Texas architect Jim Poteet helped Stacey Hill, who lives in a San Antonio artists’ community, wrangle an empty steel shipping container into a playhouse, garden retreat, and guesthouse for visiting artists. The container—the prefabricated element in this construction—measures a narrow and long 8-by-40 feet. The architect added floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows; heating and air conditioning; a green roof; bamboo flooring and wallcovering; and a small sink, shower, and composting toilet, and placed the structure on a base made from recycled telephone poles. 

Texas architect Jim Poteet helped Stacey Hill, who lives in a San Antonio artists’ community, wrangle an empty steel shipping container into a playhouse, garden retreat, and guesthouse for visiting artists. The container—the prefabricated element in this construction—measures a narrow and long 8-by-40 feet. The architect added floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows; heating and air conditioning; a green roof; bamboo flooring and wallcovering; and a small sink, shower, and composting toilet, and placed the structure on a base made from recycled telephone poles. 

The Mono building (here, pictured in the woods of Montana) by DROP Structures was designed for flexibility as a guesthouse, studio, or office space. With its linear floor plan, vaulted ceiling, and floor-to-ceiling glazing, it can easily accommodate lofted beds, desks, and other elements. With a living space of just over 100 square feet, it can serve as the perfect getaway and can even be customized with skylights, custom furniture, and upgraded lighting.

The Mono building (here, pictured in the woods of Montana) by DROP Structures was designed for flexibility as a guesthouse, studio, or office space. With its linear floor plan, vaulted ceiling, and floor-to-ceiling glazing, it can easily accommodate lofted beds, desks, and other elements. With a living space of just over 100 square feet, it can serve as the perfect getaway and can even be customized with skylights, custom furniture, and upgraded lighting.

At this guest suite in Greenwich, Connecticut, Cubist Engineering used 3-inch thick cross-laminated timber panels to build the 160-square-foot space. Elements like sliding doors and a bed that stays lofted to the ceiling during the day help to make the most of the tight quarters. The retreat was also designed to be on the move: it sits on a custom galvanized steel foundation with removable wheels and hitch, so it can be easily transported and then dropped directly on the ground, removing the need for a crane or big crew. The modular aluminum and garapa deck can be expanded or reconfigured with just two people.

At this guest suite in Greenwich, Connecticut, Cubist Engineering used 3-inch thick cross-laminated timber panels to build the 160-square-foot space. Elements like sliding doors and a bed that stays lofted to the ceiling during the day help to make the most of the tight quarters. The retreat was also designed to be on the move: it sits on a custom galvanized steel foundation with removable wheels and hitch, so it can be easily transported and then dropped directly on the ground, removing the need for a crane or big crew. The modular aluminum and garapa deck can be expanded or reconfigured with just two people.

Known for producing prefabricated wood product kits for outdoor rooms and accessory structures, Kanga Room Systems has developed a range of sheds, studios, cabins, and cottages that make for great guesthouses. This 14x16 Modern Dwelling, for example, works perfectly for a family in Austin, Texas, who use it as a guesthouse for visitors but can also rent it out as a short term rental during busy tourist seasons.

Known for producing prefabricated wood product kits for outdoor rooms and accessory structures, Kanga Room Systems has developed a range of sheds, studios, cabins, and cottages that make for great guesthouses. This 14x16 Modern Dwelling, for example, works perfectly for a family in Austin, Texas, who use it as a guesthouse for visitors but can also rent it out as a short term rental during busy tourist seasons.

Architect Rocio Romero has designed and built a range of prefab homes based out of rural Missouri. Her Camp series, which includes the 312-square-foot Fish Camp was conceived as a studio, backyard office, guest cottage, or home for short-term getaways. In fact, after suitable foundation prep, Romero explains, two moderately experienced DIYers should be able to complete either Camp structure in a weekend, excluding any desired plumbing and electricity. Details like a proprietary foundation-leveling system, preinstalled windows, and a detailed how-to DVD help ensure that the Camp series is user-friendly.

Architect Rocio Romero has designed and built a range of prefab homes based out of rural Missouri. Her Camp series, which includes the 312-square-foot Fish Camp was conceived as a studio, backyard office, guest cottage, or home for short-term getaways. In fact, after suitable foundation prep, Romero explains, two moderately experienced DIYers should be able to complete either Camp structure in a weekend, excluding any desired plumbing and electricity. Details like a proprietary foundation-leveling system, preinstalled windows, and a detailed how-to DVD help ensure that the Camp series is user-friendly.

Bellomo Architects’ modular House Arc, which was previously a prototype installed in Hawaii and California, is now being fabricated. The House Arc can be ordered online and shipped to any location, where it can be assembled by the user or community. Its modular system of bent steel tubes make it a beautiful, functional, and adaptive guesthouse that can be installed in a range of climates.

Bellomo Architects’ modular House Arc, which was previously a prototype installed in Hawaii and California, is now being fabricated. The House Arc can be ordered online and shipped to any location, where it can be assembled by the user or community. Its modular system of bent steel tubes make it a beautiful, functional, and adaptive guesthouse that can be installed in a range of climates.

Vipp, the Danish industrial design company known for its iconic trash cans and all-black kitchens, introduced a 592-square-foot prefab guesthouse in 2015 called Shelter. Situated on the shore of Lake Immeln in Sweden, the Vipp shelter sleeps two adults and runs €1,000 per night, while the loft sleeps up to four adults for €1,500 per night.

Vipp, the Danish industrial design company known for its iconic trash cans and all-black kitchens, introduced a 592-square-foot prefab guesthouse in 2015 called Shelter. Situated on the shore of Lake Immeln in Sweden, the Vipp shelter sleeps two adults and runs €1,000 per night, while the loft sleeps up to four adults for €1,500 per night.

In the Spanish mountain range of Serra d'Espadà, architect Aitor Iturralde Martín and the prefab experts of NOEM created a green-oriented, high-tech countryside family vacation home that took only 10 days to assemble. Its clean, contemporary form distinguishes it from its more traditional neighbors, and sustainable materials were used throughout its 1,000 square feet. New pine and spruce wood from the Pyrenees (both recyclable and PEFC certified) were selected for the façade of the 1,000-square-foot prefab. Smart blinds cover the windows, rigged to open and close depending on the weather forecast.

In the Spanish mountain range of Serra d'Espadà, architect Aitor Iturralde Martín and the prefab experts of NOEM created a green-oriented, high-tech countryside family vacation home that took only 10 days to assemble. Its clean, contemporary form distinguishes it from its more traditional neighbors, and sustainable materials were used throughout its 1,000 square feet. New pine and spruce wood from the Pyrenees (both recyclable and PEFC certified) were selected for the façade of the 1,000-square-foot prefab. Smart blinds cover the windows, rigged to open and close depending on the weather forecast.

With little to no permitting required because of its small size, Sett Studio units can be used for an extra bedroom, a yoga studio, a hydroponics growing area or an office space, like this 96-square-foot one shown here. Most units feature charred wood siding, inspired by the Japanese shou-sugi-ban method, which comes in various stains, such as cherry. The blow-torching technique helps with resistance to insects, rot, water, mold and fire.

With little to no permitting required because of its small size, Sett Studio units can be used for an extra bedroom, a yoga studio, a hydroponics growing area or an office space, like this 96-square-foot one shown here. Most units feature charred wood siding, inspired by the Japanese shou-sugi-ban method, which comes in various stains, such as cherry. The blow-torching technique helps with resistance to insects, rot, water, mold and fire.