Pre-Fab Houses Dot Luxe Landscapes

SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK -- With his venture Cocoon9, Christopher Burch -- the former husband of the fashion designer Tory Burch -- hopes to prove that small, prefabricated spaces can be luxurious.

Such a space is the company’s Cocoon Studio, a 480-square-foot prototype of a prefabricated house that is now on view at the Southampton location of Mecox Gardens, the home furnishings store.

The rectangular building, which ranges in price from $225,000 to $275,000, features a wall of sliding floor-to-ceiling windows and white lacquered cabinetry that conceals shelving, kitchen appliances and a Murphy bed.

For the price of a good painting, art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network can acquire these pre-fab structures as display galleries.

Mr. Burch founded Cocoon9 with a childhood friend, Edwin Mahoney, several years ago, with the aim of tackling the increasingly crowded field of luxury prefab homebuilding.

Prefabricated houses, typically manufactured piecemeal as modules on an assembly line and put together like Legos on the building site, are a growing industry. They are shaking off the dowdy, uniform styles they were once known for, and increasingly becoming a less expensive way to execute stylish designs.

Recent examples include those by the designer Philippe Starck, who is building prefab houses near Paris, and that of Tim Wright, who is a grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright and who lives in a prefab house in Wisconsin. And Dwell, the home design magazine, offers its own branded prefab houses.

Cocoon9 began when Mr. Burch asked a team of designers in Shanghai, where he has an office, to come up with building concepts. He soon recruited Mr. Mahoney, a third-generation homebuilder and the owner of E. B. Mahoney Builders of Bryn Mawr, Pa.

The company, which has a factory in China and another in New Jersey, has so far manufactured two prototypes: the one on display at Mecox Gardens, and the Cocoon Cabin, the same size but with a different floor plan, at Mr. Burch’s Southampton home, where it serves as his pool house and guest cottage.

Cocoon9 is selling three models, all built as single modules and designed so as to be easily transportable by flatbed truck. Both the Cocoon Cabin and the Cocoon Studio measure 12 by 40 feet and are similarly priced.

The Cocoon Lite 20, at 8 by 20 feet, costs between $75,000 and $95,000.

Made of steel that can withstand winds of up to 150 miles an hour, they are insulated so as to require minimal air-conditioning or heating. The houses also have several environmental features, such as LED lighting and nontoxic materials.

Despite their contemporary, geometric shape, these buildings suit even the traditional architecture of the Hamptons, “where pitched roofs and cedar siding are the norm,” as a blog post on the Mecox Gardens website noted.

The exterior of the Cocoon Studio is a wood-plastic composite, while other models have exteriors of carbon stranded bamboo siding. Cabinetry can come in several finishes, including bamboo or a matte or glossy white lacquer, while flooring is either cerused oak or vinyl with an oak grain. The fixtures can also be tailored to taste, from Venetian bronze to brushed stainless steel, with bathrooms that feature marble mosaic or glass tiles.

The houses, which take four months to manufacture, also feature distinctive touches like 360-degree TVs that can swivel from one room to the next and showers made of “smart glass” that changes from clear to opaque when in use.

Buyers must build their own foundations on which to attach the buildings, secure the proper permits and connect the utilities themselves, the costs for which can vary, but may add up to around $30,000, according to the company.

A crane is also needed, which can run an additional $10,000, while shipping costs can range from $5,000 to as much as $40,000, depending on the state. Once the home arrives, it can be hooked up in a matter of days.

The hope is that these buildings will not just adorn the backyards of expensive homes, but that hotel developers will buy several buildings and install them along a beach in the Caribbean, for example, to create a near-instant eco-resort.

“The idea is that it can be used a variety of ways, from a house on a quiet beach for one person, or a combination of houses for a hotel or offices,” Mr. Burch said.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video explores some cutting edge pre-fab houses. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tEXQCqISa4&sns=em