Royal Homes Modern Prefab: from Concept to Reality

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This excellent story was originally published by Treehugger’s Lloyd Alter on July 21, 2007.  Inconspicuously placed into the blog stream of information on a Saturday, it’s particularly special in that it offers a glimpse of taking prefab from nothing to something.  I hope you enjoy the following information, links, and images as much as I did.

Until recently my day job was working with Royal Homes to promote modern prefab. We commissioned Kohn Shnier Architects to design the small and efficient Q series, which was seen by a Toronto patron of the Arts, who asked for a larger version as a second home for two families in Muskoka, Ontario. I visited the site this week for the first time since the construction and installation, which can be seen here. Another disclosure: I am a terrible photographer and these pictures do not do it justice.

The building is essentially a sixteen foot deep wall; that the maximum width that can go down the road, and Martin Kohn took advantage of this to create the thin, long structure.

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The exterior balconies were built on site by Wayne Judges, a talented local builder. Note that the stainless steel mesh has not yet been installed in the handrails.
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The terrain is rock, and quite steep. It was disturbed as little as possible, and tree removal was minimized. Because of the difference in grade, Kohn placed the living areas upstairs and the bedrooms below; this way one can change after swimming and then go upstairs to the living areas. One enters by crossing a long bridge from the parking area to the house.
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The cladding on the forest side is zinc, installed on site.
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Upon entry, one realizes how thin this building is; the other wall is right in front of you. There is a large mudroom with bench to put all the stuff that invariably comes with cottages and kids.
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Kitchen, living and dining is in one large room. The minimalist aesthetic of ash floors, walls and ceilings is carried throughout the house.
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Beyond the living room is the “outdoor room”, which is not being used today as a huge electrical storm moves in during our visit.
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Looking back over the Kohn Shnier designed sixteen foot long dining room table, the kitchen island and counters are in a glazed corner.
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Storage wall against the glass.
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A continuous walkway is built on both levels; here the hailstorm has moved in and most of Muskoka was blacked out as trees fall on the power lines. The new gen set did not kick in so there was not too much more interior photography.
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Although with so much glass there was still lots of light inside.
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and our hosts were still able to whip up a lovely lunch.
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The bedrooms are spartan and tiny, designed for sleeping, a bunk and a closet in each. Without a wide angle lens I could barely photograph them.
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It held up well through the storm, although the rocks that are supposed to catch the water are clearly in the wrong place. (although the green roof is not yet installed and that might slow down the flow)

After four years of struggling to build modern prefab, it is thrilling to go out with such a bang, and an honour to work with such a wonderful client. Thanks to Martin Kohn, John Shnier, Brigitte and Barbora and everyone who worked on this project with Kohn Shnier Architects; Wayne Judges, and Pieter Venema and Klaas Jorritsma of Royal Homes. You can see the construction and installation at ::RoyalHomesModern


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