A longtime fan of modern prefabricated homes and architecture, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to preview new Blu Homes (@bluhomes) tiny house design at their Northern California factory. With my 14 month old and wife in tow, I packed up the car and hit the road to have a look firsthand. Cruising through Vallejo, CA, we circumnavigated the waters surrounding Mare Island, enormous structures emerged, and my interest piqued. Having left the freeway just minutes ago, I could tell these aging buildings had a past they were eager to tell. After Pearl Harbor, the US Government invested heavily in Mare Island, building 3 million sqft of warehouse to repair the Navy's battered fleet.
As we drove closer to our destination, signs of new life emerged and you could start to see how Mare Island's storied past will soon shape its future. At the heart of this rebirth is the largest building on the island, and where Blu Homes resides. To call it massive is an understatement. The striking footprint gives way to faded blue walls adorned with glass, stemming from the government's findings at the time that natural light makes workers more productive.
Once inside, impressive cranes once used for lifting submarines, now move modern prefab homes modules around with ease. Walking through the space, you can see the process in action as stacks of lumber are used in various sections of any one of Blu's many designs beginning to take shape. Unlike traditional builds, everything inside your home is built and assembled in this single building, delivering the finished home straight to your home site. Blu Homes promises a greener build with more dependable lead times, taking the average 72 week timeframe of a custom build down to 24. Building offsite also means no weather delays, and more systems and checks in place to ensure an accurate finished product.
The process is quite similar to personalizing your furniture here at Stem. Dream, customize, and place your order. Secure your land, or older building that isn't salvageable. Use the Blu team and website to customize your home with over 2,000 options. They offer a variety of styles from the Modern Farmhouse, their staple Breeze, to the Eichler-style Aire. The finished modules are shipped nationwide to your site, laid on the foundation, and utilities are hooked up. If the project allows for it, and as hopefully more home building follows this approach, it's a hands-on process that let's you shape where you're going to live. After all, the home is by far the single largest purchase any person, couple, or family will make. Shouldn't we be able to put a little bit of ourselves into it?
Photo Credit: Blu Homes. Breezehouse located on Mare Island in Vallejo, California
As we wrapped up our self-guided tour of the factory, we made our way to a nearby bluff where a working model of the Breeze resides. This 2,300 sqft home lives up to its name, with a centrally placed breezeway at the heart of the home. One of the Blu's founding values is a deep connection with nature, so materials and the flow in each home reflects that. Touring a Blu home on a gorgeous 72 degree day, it doesn't take long to see the appeal. Large accordion doors invite the sunshine, and an open layout is relevant to today's family who wants to be a part of the action, as rooms flow from one to the next. Blu's standard 9' ceilings give each room a spacious feel, and allow for well-placed windows to offer a coveted cross breeze. The light-filled space is appointed with approachable modern furniture designs from a variety of brands such as Gus' Carmichael Bed. The layout boasts luxury fixtures and finishes, including NanaWalls, Caesarstone countertops, Kohler fixtures and KitchenAid stainless steel appliances, as well as high tech options including a Level 2 electric car chargers. As Blu says, this is "Not your grandma's prefab".
Photo Credit: Blu Homes
Driving back towards San Francisco, we had time to chat and reflect on our experience at Blu. The appeal of personalizing not only the furniture you put inside your home, but the home itself is alluring. If I had one concern it would be Blu's pricing, and if they are currently able to reach the sizable market interested in their type of homes. They have an extremely high quality product and are scaling up, so I understand the associated costs. Looking at other companies like Tesla who have also paved the way in their respective industries, I hope that before long companies like Blu will be able to bring down their prices through continued efficiencies in home building. But if it's within your price range, it's an amazing way to get a personalized home of your dreams.