SANTA MONICA – Almost 30 years after purchasing a modest two bedroom, one bathroom home in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica, Calif., Michael Solomon and Naomi Lieberman have turned their attention to their backyard, where they hoped to add a guesthouse that would accommodate their family and friends.

In what seems inconceivable by today’s real estate standards, they bought the 1,300 square foot home in 1994 for $ 300,000. But decades later, desiring a little more space, they had little success in finding larger accommodation that they both loved. “We got lucky and bought the house right after the Northridge earthquake,” Solomon explained. But today, “there really isn’t an affordable place to go” if you want more space, he added.

Given the deep attachment to their longtime neighborhood, the couple decided to add an accessory housing unit, or ADU, in the backyard, rather than renovating or moving elsewhere.

Their decision to stay put is not surprising in neighborhoods like theirs, where tiny single-family homes sell for over $ 2 million and neighboring neighborhoods are among the most expensive zip codes for buyers nationwide.

Set on a large lot with a detached garage and large backyard, the traditional 1939 house, along with others on the grounds, was built for aircraft workers Hughes and McDonnell Douglas in the 1930s and 1940s.

“We thought it would be awkward to add to the house” because it’s so ‘old fashioned’, said Solomon, a former music director and artistic director who is now the Southern California representative for Penguin Cold Caps, a British line of headgear designed to minimize hair loss during chemotherapy. However, he liked the idea of ​​a separate structure, especially if it could incorporate elements of the Mid-Century Modern design, which he is a fan of.

Interested in eco-friendly design, the couple were inspired by the possibilities of prefabricated construction after visiting a house in Venice designed by Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir and Tryggvi Thorsteinsson of the Santa Monica-based company Minarc.

“We loved the quirky nature of what they did,” Solomon said of this home’s outdoor floor plan and green building solutions.

So they hired Minarc to make them something.

Such accessory housing units are on the rise in Los Angeles, where the city relies on ADUs to address inadequate housing needs: in 2020 alone, the city of Los Angeles received more than 5,000 ADU requests.

The house that Minarc built for Solomon and Lieberman is known as Plús Hús (in Icelandic for “Plus House”), and the plan is one of many available through the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety’s standard plan. : The program offers over 40 stylish pre-approved ADU designs to simplify the authorization process.

The prefabricated ADU is made from mnmMOD construction panels, a wood-free fire retardant option made from recycled steel and durable expanded polystyrene insulation panels.

Minarc’s compositions for the couple echo what designers call their desire to create sustainable and flexible housing.

“We wanted to change the mindset when it comes to construction,” Ingjaldsdóttir said of Plús Hús. “We started thinking about this 10 years ago when we built our first prototype. [using shipping] containers, but they are not made to live in because there is no insulation and the ceilings are low. Why put a lot of energy and work on something that isn’t right for humans? We started to think of kits for crises. We thought, “How can we help if someone’s house burns down? “”

Impressed by Minarc’s sustainable, low-waste approach to construction, Solomon and Lieberman chose to install a custom Plús Hús, a 320-square-foot studio made in downtown Los Angeles, arrived as a flat kit and assembled on site within a day.

Even though it takes up part of their prized backyard, the small studio adds enormous curb appeal and a touch of modernism to the backyard, where drought-tolerant landscaping and a new swimming pool complete the serene addition.

Located next to the garage, the ADU offers both natural light and privacy through narrow floor-to-ceiling aluminum windows at three corners. A heavy, well-insulated sliding glass door connects guests to the pool, backyard, and main house.

Inside, interiors reflect Salomon’s minimalist preferences, with white maple cladding on the walls and ceiling and a queen-size Murphy wall bed from Italian furniture maker Clei ($ 15,000 at the time at Resource Furniture in West Hollywood) that offers storage and handles easily on a built-in sofa for overnight guests.

In an effort to reduce volatile organic compounds inside the unit, there is no paint or carpet, and the bathroom tiles are certified by the nonprofit environmental institute. Greenguard for indoor air quality.

Thanks to the structure’s energy efficient mnmMOD interior wall panels, Solomon said the ADU is always at a comfortable temperature. “The insulation is excellent,” he said. “If it’s hot outside, it will retain the heat and stay warm at night. It is very efficient and inexpensive to use.”

The couple splurged on a luxe steam shower and sauna from Aquapeutics in the bathroom, but the kitchenette includes inexpensive cabinetry from Ikea (FÖRBÄTTRA cladding panels in matte white paired with facades VOXTORP drawer unit), Caesarstone counters, a compact 24-inch refrigerator, and a cooktop and microwave for a clean, modern look. “We didn’t want to clutter up space,” Solomon said.

The small footprint proves that you can have separate living spaces on just 320 square feet, as the kitchenette, living room and convertible master bedroom, dining room, and bathroom each have an individual presence in the shared space. .

After six months of construction, the project was completed in January 2020 at a cost of approximately $ 150,000, due to the additions. Minarc also offers one-bedroom units starting at $ 79,000 for materials, with custom details like skylights, windows, and door upgrades available for an additional fee.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the couple have only hosted one guest since the completion of the ADU. Still, the ADU was a premonitory move, Solomon said, as more Americans work from home as variants of the coronavirus emerge. Lieberman, a psychotherapist, has opted out of his 20-year-old practice and now uses ADU as his virtual therapist’s practice.

“We didn’t build it for that reason,” Solomon said, “but she loves working in this space.”

As someone who appreciates the ADU’s connection with the outdoors, Solomon said that the ADU’s only downside is the lack of abundant sunlight. “The bathroom and the dining room in the far corner are a bit dark. So I will be installing solar tubes with lenses that catch the light.”

The ADU may have been a compromise in terms of space, but for the couple it was a good compromise: Solomon and Lieberman can stay in the neighborhood they love while Salomon works in his office in the garage. and Lieberman works in the ADU. They can enjoy the second bathroom they’ve always dreamed of, and hopefully one day when the coronavirus pandemic ends, they’ll be able to house their families in space. Looking ahead, Solomon said the ADU could potentially be used as accommodation for a caregiver, should one of them need help.

There’s even a rower tucked away in the ADU, when the urge to sweat kicks in.

“We got everything we wanted in a small resort,” Solomon said. “I wanted something that looked great. Now when I look into the garden I see a garage built in 1939, a swimming pool, a cozy lawn for our dog and a guest house built two years ago. they all fit together beautifully. This is the look I wanted. And it’s so private my neighbors can’t see me. If I could be nudist, I would.


We asked the Minarc to detail the budget for a typical secondary accommodation. Standard plan applicants select an approved plan, then Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety staff review factors for the specific site, including zoning code compliance and foundation requirements. Please note that the city’s pre-approved standard plans may not be approved for use in certain situations or site conditions. Standard plans are designed and owned by the design companies and are purchased directly from them as the owners of the plan. Minarc also works with ERLA Construction services to facilitate construction as a contractor, but this is not mandatory. Homeowners are encouraged to use their preferred construction company, or they can get a permit to “build as owner”. With those caveats in place, here’s a general overview of the cost of an ADU Plús Hús:

Site planning and permit $ 6,500

City fees $ 2,500 – $ 5,500

Site work and public services $ 5,000 to $ 20,000

Materials Plús Hús $ 47,000- $ 59,000

Foundation and assembly $ 56,000

Total estimated cost $ 120,000 to $ 147,000


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