IDSwest 2011: L41 Home

One of the highlights during IDSwest this year was having the chance to tour the L41 220-square-foot home with architect Michael Katz and designer Janet Corne. They both have an incredible passion for design, and L41 is a beautiful example of their dedication to sustainability.

For Katz and Corne, it was important that they didn’t just set out to design the smallest possible house, but to find out how small they could build a house that was still delightful. In their words “we didn’t set out to design a 220 sqft house – we set out to design a delightful house, then measure it.”

They began with where they spend time in their home, and for them the kitchen and family room type area is what they believe is the heart of the home, and that’s what they focused on. They designed a fully functional kitchen and dining area that feels much larger than it really is. The kitchen features all the appliances you would normally expect, a dishwasher, convection oven and microwave, an under-the-counter fridge and freezer, and a washing machine/dryer combo. It also features a state-of-the art magnetic induction stove and a slide out overhead fan.

The living room features a couch that folds out to a bed, a coffee table, chairs, lots of storage, and a computer desk — a custom designed glass sliding door that disappears into the side of the unit gives full access to a outdoor deck and additional storage.

The roof of the L41 generates and stores solar electricity through photovoltaic and solar thermal heating and cooling cells on its green roof. It also happens to be the perfect place for a small garden.

The unit I toured was the 220 sqft studio unit, but they have a one-bedroom unit that is 350 sqft, and a two-bedroom which is 450 sqft. The units are all modular and can be stacked or arranged in many configurations; Katz is currently working on a 12-story building, and he believes that it will be a great example of how density can be increased in low-density single family zones.

One of the advantages of building something so small like the L41, is that it is realistically possible to mass produce. Katz says that there have been many efforts to mass produce buildings but have largely failed; prefabbing large buildings has been problematic to mass production.

The house is built from cross-laminated timber (CLT) that is manufactured in Vancouver, BC Canada. CLT has many of the same properties as concrete, which allows them to stack the units; the biggest difference between concrete and cross-laminated timber is the CLT is completely sustainable. Katz believes that CLT is the world’s most important building material.

The L41 is a model of sustainability and a wonderful example of how design results in innovation without having to sacrifice quality and, in this case, delight.

Photos by Jon Benjamin Photography.

Aaron De Simone covered IDSwest 2011 for Design Milk. Aaron founded and curates I HEART LUXE, a weekly newsletter, that covers design, fashion, lifestyle and travel.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.