Roger Kurath’s client had a simple request: renovate his rundown old house in a dense Santa Monica neighborhood near the beach and give him three bedrooms. But the little house was in a state of disrepair and beyond help, so Kurath started over from scratch.

A longtime fan of poured-in-place concrete construction, the designer investigated the system, but a tight budget forced him to switch to a variation on prefab technology. Built using standard construction measurements for efficiency and easy assembly, the panels were poured flat on site and erected in place, which cost at least 30 percent less than poured-in-place.

Because the lot sits on a busy street, Kurath designed an inward-looking plan with minimal glazing on the front elevation and 2-foot-thick walls for sound attenuation. “The house also could not address the rear of the property because of an ugly building, so I created a side courtyard and designed the house around it for privacy,” Kurath says. The two-story residence is an assemblage of large open spaces with tilt-turn windows and folding doors that bring light into the minimalist interior.

Though the client didn’t ask for a green and healthy house, Kurath gave him one anyway. “That’s how I design every house,” says the Swiss native. “In Europe energy is so expensive that you are trained as an architect to be environmentally conscious.”

To that end, the designer excluded air conditioning and used cellulose insulation, radiant heat under the walnut floors, and low-VOC paint throughout. Blending thrifty and expensive elements, the home features high-end European kitchen cabinets, quartz countertops, glass tiles, and Ikea bath cabinets.

Category: Custom home, less than 3,500 square feet
Entrant/Designer/Interior designer: Design*21, Marina del Rey, Calif.
Builder: Homeowner