It could have been the premiere of a summer blockbuster. People waited as long as an hour to tour the first Glidehouse, a modern, prefabricated home recently on display at Sunset . One man went through the line six times. Another person said, "I liked the design so much, I wanted to go home, burn my house down, and start over." Find out what the buzz is about, and how you can get a surprisingly affordable Glidehouse of your own.
The Design: A wall of glass, high windows and hidden fixtures flood the rooms with balanced light. Natural materials and high ceilings add to the feeling of space. Renewable bamboo flooring provides the look and durability of hardwood without the guilt, and the sloped roof is perfect for solar panels.
The Twist: The Glidehouse is named for the way its window walls and storage doors open. Outside, large wood screens slide on barn-door tracks, creating privacy while letting in the breeze.
The Design: Built for easy entertaining, the living-dining area and kitchen flow together. The table can slip outside for a summer dinner. Three bar stools tuck under the counter. The built-in birch cabinets and slate backsplash match materials used throughout the house.
The Twist: The kitchen's countertops are made of a renewable lightweight composite concrete. A split-level counter hides faucet and dishwasher. An extra mini sink in the upper level is handy for icing drinks and washing vegetables.
The Design: Architect Michelle Kaufmann wanted the master bedroom to feel like a personal hideaway with a private garden. The window wall opens to a deck you can outfit with fireplace, hot tub, or container plants. Storage includes individual closets, linen cabinets, and a notch for the bed. The back shelf serves as night stand.
The Twist: Sliding wood screens lock shut so in the right setting, you can sleep in fresh air.
The Design: Thanks to a well-placed skylight, electrical lighting is not needed until late in the day. (Natural light also happens to be best for looking at yourself in the mirror.) A tankless heater supplies hot water on demand.
The Twist: Sculptural stainless steel bowl sinks free counterspace. Minimal hardware keeps the focus on your art and accessories.
The Design: In every room, the Glidehouse makes the most of square footage by borrowing space from the outdoors. Even the office/guest room has light coming in from high windows and an opening to a slate-paved deck.
The Twist: The modular storage system includes a built-in workspace that's ready to use when the house arrives.
The Design: You can use the modular storage system for bookshelves, media center, bar, and more. A gas fireplace fills a niche.
The Twist: When you want to de-clutter, shut the doors.
The Design: A simple entry heightens the experience of opening the door to the main room and view inside. A secondary door on the left connects to the office/guest room. In some plans, the entry court leads to a detached studio and reflecting pond.
The Twist: Galvanized steel and cement board siding offers a long-lasting, clean finish that needs little maintenance.
While building costs vary by region, quality construction typically starts around $250 per square foot. The Glidehouse -- built to meet local building codes -- costs $120 to $160 per square foot (not including foundation, deck, and major appliances). Once you've secured your lot, you can choose a floorplan and options.
Glidehouse architect Michelle Kaufmann , 35, worked for Frank Gehry in Los Angeles for five years before moving to the Bay Area to open her own office. She created the Glidehouse "in order to live in a well-designed, less expensive home that would allow us to live lightly on the land."
She eventually partnered with a modular design/build company, Construction Resource Group of Redmond, Washington, to develop the Glidehouse.
The concept of prefabricated modern homes showed early promise in Los Angeles in the 1950s, but progress stalled. Eichler tract houses brought contemporary architecture to a mass market between the late 1940s and early 1970s, but they were assembled on-site.
As Sunset wrote in 1978, "The factory-built house has been a dream about to come true every year since the end of World War II." The Glidehouse could be the answer. Now available in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Tennesee, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, British Columbia, Ontario, the Glidehouse is coming soon to Texas, New York, and Hawaii. Kaufmann's goal is to make it available wherever there's an interest in affordable, "green," modern living across the country.