Vina Lustado – Founder of Sol Haus Design

[quote style=”boxed”]Be passionate. Be diligent. Have integrity. Provide exceptional service. Show gratitude.[/quote]

Vina Lustado is the founder of Sol Haus Design, a firm that specializes in sustainable building. After receiving an architectural degree from University of Southern California, Vina worked with notable offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Ventura, California.

Vina strongly believes in social and environmental causes. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Alaska with the Global Village Team, and has helped build artists’ residences in Italy for Volunteers For Peace. Vina is an active member in her community, promoting environmental initiatives through the local non-profit organization Ojai Valley Green Coalition.

One of the highlights in Vina’s career was an international fellowship in Germany to research ecological and affordable housing. During the time spent in Germany, she learned that sustainability is a mindset inherent in a cultural lifestyle. It’s much more than a marketing strategy. Since completing the fellowship, Vina has decided to focus her career in sustainability and affordability. Her design approach is rooted in simplicity, with an eye towards efficiency and practicality.

What are you working on right now?

I have just completed the design and permitting of a large residential project in Ventura, and it’s currently in construction. The house sits on a hilltop property with panoramic views of the ocean. I am fortunate to work with great clients and great contractors from Tenpenny Construction. It has been a collaborative team effort, which was definitely the key to the project’s success.

Another project that holds a special place in my heart is a prototype for small dwelling units (called the Eco-Modular Prototype). I developed it as a solution to affordable and sustainable housing. It is a small and efficient dwelling unit at 640 square feet. It incorporates a modular system of construction to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste. With a target price of $70,000, it embraces the small house movement. I am working with local building officials to have it standardized and pre-approved for permit processing.

In conjunction with the small house prototype, I am forming an Eco-Community in my small town in Ojai. The intent is to share property and natural resources, grow our own food, and have minimal impact on the land. The prototype units will provide flexible living arrangements and will be off the grid as much as possible.

Lastly, I’m building a tiny house of my own, which is about 140 square feet and will cost $20,000. It’s a house that is about the size of a parking space! It’s based on the Tumbleweed House concept, but I will be designing it for my own needs. It’s the ultimate expression of minimalist living, but I look forward to all the freedom it provides!

Where did the idea for Modular Eco-Prototype come from?

As an avid traveler, I have always embraced the idea of living simply and in small living spaces. Living simply allows flexibility, reduces consumer consumption, and frees me from debt.

As an immigrant from the Philippines, I grew up in a large household with nine siblings and lived a modest lifestyle. Our financial means were of primary concern. When I started working with residential clients, I was always conscientious of their budgets. Construction cost and the design concept were inherent in coming up with a good solution for the project.

One of the main reasons I started my business was to provide an affordable and sustainable solution to housing, from design to permitting to construction. I have always believed that good architecture should be accessible to everyone, regardless of a person’s income.

What does your typical day look like?

As a solo entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges I face is finding focus. There are so many things that can easily distract you from the real work. I try to have a consistent yoga practice to help me stay in balance, or any other physical exercise to get me outdoors. Most of my days are not heavily structured, but they consist of meetings, job site visits, and coordination with clients and consultants. Actual production time for drawings is done late in the evenings or early in the mornings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s very organic. Whenever I plan something, a fork in the road usually takes me to another path, which is usually unexpected but many times better. I try to keep my vision clear, no matter which road I’m on. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, especially if it’s scary! This is usually a good sign. The big thing to remember is: “The difference between thinking and doing is doing!”

What are trends that excite you?

The trend to live more simply and downsize our homes and lifestyles (part of the tiny house movement). Another trend that excites me is the concept of sharing resources among strangers and like-minded people. This is based on a theory called collaborative consumption by Rachel Botsman.

What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I have worked at high-profile architecture offices in corporate settings. While I gained a lot of valuable experience and worked with exceptional people, I saw the demise of companies as a result of them lacking visions and the ability to provide value and service to their client bases. I learned that in my own company, I would stay true to my vision and mission, and provide a high level of service.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t have any regrets. For all the mistakes I’ve made, I have grown and become wiser (I hope).

What are some of things you do as an entrepreneur that you would recommend everybody else do?

Be passionate. Be diligent. Have integrity. Provide exceptional service. Show gratitude.

Tell us a secret.

I have a very audible heart murmur.

What is the one book that you recommend to our community should read, and why?

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Live your passion, have integrity, never compromise, and never give up. Never let money govern your big decisions in life. Use your heart and little voice to point you in the right direction. The book is not so much about business as it is about pursuing one’s passion and having integrity.

If you weren’t working on your business, what would you be doing?

I would be outdoors, climbing, biking, camping or practicing yoga. Nature nourishes my soul.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

  1. Yvon Chouinard
  2. Rachel Botsman
  3. Arne Steffen (an architect from Darmstadt, Germany)


Vina Lustado on LinkedIn:
Sol Haus Design on Facebook:
Sol Haus Design’s website:
Vina Lustado’s email: [email protected]