Martha Adams & Maimon Miller House Studio / RCL

Project Team:   Tomo Ono,   Shinya Yamada
Structural Engineer:   Lindon Schultz
General Contractor:   Herman Vallejo

The challenge of creating an elegant and functional space at the rear of a 750 square-foot California bungalow that sits in the midst of a stream of tightly packed tract homes was only one of the issues faced by RCL on this project. Due to city building codes, the construction of a two-car garage was required before any other addition to the house would be allowed. To construct both a garage and a room addition would essentially fill the entire rear area of the tiny lot eliminating any possibility of a yard or patio space. RCL discovered however, that the city would permit the addition of a room less than 100 square feet (not including closets) without the construction of a garage. The young couple, both artists (he, a violinist, and she, a costume designer) approached the project with open minds, realizing that their desire for a new room would demand an extremely creative solution due to the limitations of the city code, lot space and the neighborhood environment, but perhaps the biggest challenge was their modest budget of $20,000. To design an addition that could be built for $20,000 involved a range of considerations beyond creative design including innovative low-cost and durable materials as well as straight-forward and time-conscious construction considerations.

RCL's solution to the challenge of budget limitations resulted in a combination of inexpensive, readily available materials and inventive construction techniques - concrete, steel tubing, cheap exterior plywood siding (for both interior and exterior) and glass. A poured concrete slab floor encasing radiant heating pipes was finished smooth and then sealed. The steel tube frame supported plywood that was oiled, rather than painted, taking advantage of the rich mahogany color of the wood. The glass was simply siliconed in place eliminating the need for expensive frames or hardware. The roofing is a paint-on epoxy material over rigid insulation.

The resulting interior space is airy and expansive, belying its dimensions of 10 feet by 10 feet. The closets in each corner of the room extend beyond the 10 foot by 10 foot square, legally stretching city code restrictions of the room size. Glass fills the spaces between the corner closets and the roof, an undulating curved arc of steel and plywood that gently drapes over the boxy closets and extends outside creating a shaded patio area. The deceptively simple sculptural shape of the roof relates effectively with the peaked roof of the existing home.

Constraints of budget, size and city code require and inventive approach - often the greatest challenges yield the most interesting and effective solutions.