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‘Katrina cottages’ creator finds a niche

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

In the midst of the McMansion boom, along comes a tiny little house that creates a whole new market.

Its impetus: a decent, temporary shelter for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

Its extension: An alternative to camping for service workers in the Rockies; a house in the back for Californians who need rental income to pay their huge mortgages; a berth for mom or dad next door to their boomer kids; not to mention college dorms or military housing. It’s called the Katrina cottage.

Its mastermind: Marianne Cusato, a New York designer who whipped up the plans for five traditional-looking American homes that can withstand 140-mph winds. Until now, she says, “you had to go either to an apartment or a trailer.”

The idea came during a planning session in Mississippi, whose governor had asked an urban planner to take part in a post-Katrina forum. The planner challenged designers to create an alternative to the FEMA trailer. Cusato’s design won.

Right about now, plans and materials are making their debut at Lowe’s building-supply stores along the Gulf Coast, with a national rollout expected in 2007. The cottages — ranging from a one-bedroom, 308-square-foot abode to a 936-square-foot house — will run from about $17,000 to $47,000, excluding the foundation, heating and cooling, and labor.

Based on the cottages’ warm reception without a penny spent on advertising, analysts say more Lilliputian home designs are bound to follow. But Cusato and Lowe’s are the leaders.

—Adapted from “A stylish cottage for Katrina country is a hit all over,” Ron Scherer, The Christian Science Monitor.

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