Gregory La Vardera is an architect practicing in the Philadelphia metro area (that's him above at the window of the office he designed). As an extension of that practice he has developed and published a series of modern contemporary design house plans, one of the rare MoCo design catalogs currently available. The catalog isn't found on the newsstand but instead, in keeping with its more modern stance, is marketed exclusively via the web. In addition, an outgrowth of these stock designs, La Vardera is also working with building system manufacturers to develop modern prefabricated house products. We asked him how popular MoCo catalog house plans are…
LaMiDesign Deck House exterior.
ML: How did LaMiDesign get started? There aren't many modern, contemporary home plan publishers; it must have been an uphill battle?
GLV: I'm afraid the venture is still quite young and it is still an uphill battle! The story began in 2001 after hearing the tenor of the voices on the Dwell magazine online forum I realized that there were a lot of people who wanted a moco house, saw nothing available in the marketplace, but were not willing to hire an architect to create a custom design. There was a vicious circle by which people who wanted moco design homes could not find one to buy, could not afford custom, were forced to purchase traditional homes, and the marketplace claimed there was no demand for moco and so did not move to offer it. I ended up researching catalog house plans online as an affordable option to direct people to and I found nothing - well, nothing I was willing to recommend. Mind you house plan publishers have hundreds of plans they categorize as contemporary, but these are for the most part the same old mcmansions with a superficial facade treatment. The people I was corresponding with were design savvy consumers and saw right through this. At that point it was apparent that nobody was publishing house plans that appealed to these people. I decided then to take it up. Catalog house plans as a product are popular in the US, they are understood by builders and small developers. It appeared to be a good medium by which to deliver moco design to the market. Our web site went live in November 2002 and over the next two years we introduced 6 designs. The first plan sales came quickly and our first customers have been great, sharing the progress of their construction. Yet once people discover our plans it takes time before they are prepared to build. It is the rare customer that finds us when they are ready to start construction.
LaMiDesign Deck House interior.
ML: Where is the demand coming from? Can you characterize your typical customer? And why are they buying contemporary?
GLV: I can't characterize a typical customer. They have been very diverse, from different parts of the country, young families to retirees. Of the customers I've been able to speak with or correspond with there have been different stories. One who said they were looking for something different, creative. Another who had lived in Europe for an extended time and whose taste was changed by the experience. Another who simply wanted to distinguish themselves from the same old houses their neighbors were building. It's been very encouraging because it's not been the design consuming demographic that you might expect. Rather its more like everyday people who just wanted something besides the status quo. It's a promising indicator for wider appeal.
LaMiDesign Tray House exterior.
ML: How many of your home designs are now built or in the process of being built?
GLV: This is hard to answer precisely. There is one house complete in South Carolina (the Tray house above) and another in Arkansas (the Deck house on top). I believe there is another under construction in Idaho but I have not seen images. There are another half dozen Construction Print customers out there who have not corresponded with me or shared their progress. There are also dozens who have purchased Design Prints to learn more about a specific house. These customers may continue on to order construction prints and build.
The latest EcoSteel design developed this Fall. These houses were concieved as weekend houses for Desert Hot Springs, CA.
ML: What's new this year at Lamidesign?
GLV: This years efforts have gone into a number of prefabricated house efforts which are off-shoots of my house plan designs. The first of these is a team effort with steel building manufacturer Northern Steel. Together we have advanced designs of several moco homes which are intended to leverage the efficiencies of the steel commercial construction system typical to their business. The first of these, the 6040 House and the 6030 House were introduced this year and the first 6030 House should be built in Maryland. Several other variations of these are under design now. We have also taken our first steps to create all steel versions of several of our Lamidesign house plans. Northern Steel has launched a new web site to put these all under one banner at ecocontempo.com. Other projects which are in more of a planning stage are the Common Modular Project which is an effort to create a common design solution for a group seeking a modular prefab with the intent to have small lots of houses manufactured concurrently by willing factories. This proposal is discussed in some detail here. To top it off we have also begun floating our first design proposals for shipping container or IBU (inter-modal building units) based housing. This idea has danced around the margins of the current prefab movement and this is an effort to offer a concise product which anybody can purchase. This winter I will also return to developing some of the unfinished home plan designs.
Shipping container or IBU (inter-modal building units) based housing studies.
ML: Thank you Gregory.