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COMFORT ZONE | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet


"I love the sound of the rain on the metal roof," says home owner Amy Theobald. "It's meditative."

"The house took longer to finish because the bridge wasn't prefabricated," says Brian Abramson of Method Homes. "The more work that can be done off-site, the better."

Prefabricated homes in the Pacific Northwest usually conjure images of Hilary Swank "I'm just a girl from a trailer park" abodes—a stark contrast to Amy Theobald and Cara Beth Lee's sleek getaway deep in Washington's Mt. Baker rainforest.

From the driveway, the cabin (or "M2 Project," as its builder, Method Homes, calls it) looks something like a modern municipal office. Inside, however, it features LEED-certified materials like recycled-bamboo countertops, on-demand hot water, cellulose insulation, and ductless heating. Its distinctive roofline, floor-to-ceiling windows, and bright cedar ceiling distinguish it from a "cozy" (read: dark and damp) traditional Northwest cabin as much as its construction process does.

While most homes built on-site in the Pacific Northwest are exposed to ever-moist weather for prolonged periods, Method Homes constructs its models inside a large facility in nearby Ferndale, reducing the risk of mold. Also, on-site construction leaves behind a lot of wasted material, says Method Homes cofounder Mark Rylant. "By prefabricating our homes in a controlled environment, we are able to reduce this by about 70 percent."

The prefab abodes are trucked in (or barged, in the case of a current island home project), and a crane drops them into place. The only thing that was built on-site in the M2 is a small breezeway (a.k.a. bridge) connecting two "pods." One contains two bedrooms and a bathroom; the other holds the living room-kitchen and a half bathroom. "We didn't want to purchase new things," Lee explains as she lounges on a mid-century American couch. "The construction and what we put in it were both part of the same approach."

Gleaned from such upper-crust retailers as the thrift store ValueVillage, the decor fits the efficient, well-lit space. For Seattleites Theobald, an IT professional, and Lee, a physician, the cabin is a refuge for themselves, their friends, and one very satisfied orange kitty. The self-described "retired skiers" enjoy relaxing and cooking during the long rainy season and hiking the alpine trails in summer and fall.

In a nod to traditional manufactured homes, Theobald calls their two-winged cabin "our double-wide." And when their friends drop by to enjoy the Northwest's favorite down-market macrobrew, Rainier, the scene isn't so far off the rainforest-Gothic theme. After all, Hilary Swank grew up in a trailer park just down the road.

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