Karrie Jacobs

Karrie Jacobs’s story of her coast-to-coast search for the American Dream-–a great, cheap house-–is smart, fascinating, and fun. –Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons

...a quirky, important book. –Linda Hales, The Washington Post

An architectural Travels with Charley, Jacobs’s odyssey is social commentary at its best, lending insight into notions of American community and shelter. –Laurette Hayden, ReadyMade Magazine

The founding editor of Dwell magazine embarks on an epic and moderately successful cross-country search for a reasonably priced home. Although Jacobs’s journey is a cheerful one, it also reveals the inescapably darker truth that affordable comfort is remarkably hard to come by in the candy store of American consumption. –The Atlantic

An engaging and informative book, which in its combination of road trip and ongoing philosophical tract remind me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. –Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets, & Philosophers

Karrie Jacobs travels America in a quest for a house to call home in the modern world. Her book is beautifully written, poetic, and inspiring. For an instant spirits uplift, buy this book now. –John Thackara, director of Doors of Perception


More architects, builders, and thinkers for fans of The Perfect $100,000 House:

(This list is a work in progress. If you know of a project that involves great low cost housing or a relevant website, please use the contact link elsewhere on this site and send it to me. — kj)

Brett Zamore design

Houston architect Brett Zamore, whose Shot Trot house is discussed in detail in the book, is currently working on producing and marketing a kit version of the house. For more information, click the “kit” button on his website.

Gregory La Vardera

Architect Gregory La Vardera, of Merchantville, New Jersey, has been selling plans for low cost, modern houses. His site features photos of one of them, the Plat House, under construction in Arkansas. Sadly, work didn’t begin on that house until a year after my roadtrip, so I didn’t get to visit.

Rocio Romero

Pioneering architect Rocio Romero is selling her low-cost house kits from a showroom in Perryville, Missouri. Go to her website to get more information about the LV house and the smaller, somewhat simpler Camp series.

John Kuhtik

This Bayonne, New Jersey based fiberglass fabricator has been hard at work in recent years reviving Buckminster Fuller’s fisheye dome. I saw one of his domes at the Longhouse Reserve, a sculpture garden in East Hampton and thought it was quite beautiful. The object, of course, is to use the dome as a house.

Design Advisor

This is an interesting one. It’s a website that was put toghether by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. It lists HUD funded affordable housing projects that they believe represent good design. And some of it is, in fact, quite good. There’s also a section on low cost green design.

Studio 804

Studio 804 is a design/build program run by the University of Kansas School of Architecture. The students in the program have built a number of architecturally adventurous low cost houses in Lawrence and, in the last couple of years, have been working on modular designs that they’ve shipped off to home buyers in Kansas City.

Biloxi Model Home Program

Architecture for Humanity is trying to develop some prototypes for the Gulf Coast to replace the homes destroyed by Katrina and to offer design services to those trying to rebuild. Take a look at the models currently on view in Biloxi.

Shelter Publications

Long ago, in 1973, a guy named Lloyd Kahn published a book called Shelter. It was a large format — think Whole Earth Catalog — compendium of handmade houses, a bible for hippie architects. More recently, Kahn reissued Shelter and published a new book called Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter. Both are available at this site, as are some sample pages and excerpts. Kahn’s aesthetic isn’t exactly mine, but the encyclopedic scope of his project fascinates me.

Design Corps

Founded by architect Bryan Bell, this organization provides architectural services to those who can’t afford it. Design Corps specializes in designing and building quality housing for migrant farm workers and low income rural families. They set up workshops that help their clients to participate in the design and construction of their own homes.

Smart Living PDX

A design competition sponsored by the city of Portland for “skinny” houses. The houses, in a wide variety of styles, are designed to fit the city’s 25’X100′ lots.  Two of the houses have been chosen as permit ready models, pre-approved for construction by developers.  The site features renderings of all the winning designs. I think this program is significant because it’s an  instance of a city government encouraging the construction of smaller houses.