The dream of beautiful, high-quality prefab housing became a reality in countries such as Japan and Austria years ago, but most Americans still associate manufactured homes with “trailer trash” and feeble, retrograde design. That image has been changing, thanks to a recent wave of forward-looking prefab homes created by ambitious young American architects. Here’s a sampling of the more intriguing products to emerge—all of which can be shipped to Portland.


prefab primer

An exterior view of Rocio Romero LLC’s minimalist and modern prefab homes

Made by: Rocio Romero LLC (Perryville, Missouri)
Number sold: 64 since 2004

Clustered in: California, New York
Example: Two-bedroom Standard LV
Square feet: 1,150
Cost of kit: $35,923
Cool points: Rocio helped launch the modern prefab craze with this minimalist modern shack enveloped in no-nonsense galvanized steel and floor-to-ceiling glass. It’s still a market leader.
Buyer beware: This is a kit home; the factory will ship you a set of plans and the major structural components—then you hire a general contractor to assemble the parts and add interior finishes at an additional estimated cost of $100,000 to $188,000.
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Made by: Michelle Kaufmann Designs
(Oakland, California)
Number sold: 34 since 2002
Clustered in: California
Example: Two-bedroom Sunset Breezehouse
Square feet: 1,800
Cost: Approximately $500,400
Cool points: This eco-friendly, modular dream house exemplifies the casually classy, indoor-outdoor lifestyle made famous by corporate sponsor Sunset magazine.
Buyer beware: Built for style and comfort, this isn’t the answer for cost-conscious consumers. But at least Oregonians will save on shipping, since the plant is in Washington.
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Made by: Alchemy Architects (St. Paul, Minnesota)
Number sold: 20 since 2002
Clustered in: New England, Montana, Oregon
Example: Tall Two-Bedroom
Square feet: 1,176
Cost: $199,000
Cool points: Whereas some modern prefab manufacturers promise to reinvent your lifestyle, this firm just sells easygoing, utilitarian houses that are as affordable as they are customizable.
Buyer beware: You may feel overwhelmed by the data-driven sales pitch and the seemingly endless options for assembling the basic modules into a complete house.
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*Costs don’t include variable fees for customizing, shipping, and “buttoning up” the factory-built modules once they arrive—which, when added up, may exceed $125,000, depending on the project.