This agricultural property in Sonoma, California is the home of two scientists involved in various farm projects including the production of olives, olive oil, honey, as well as bee keeping, extensive gardening, and other endeavors that take advantage of the area’s climate, soils, and siting.

The house is 2,200 square feet on two levels. As part of an extensive renovation, the existing north façade, stair, and porch were removed and replaced with a new glass wall and balcony structure. Most of the original wood framing for the house itself, including board and baton siding (stained dark grey) and a gable roof structure, were retained. Inside, the upper floor was excavated so that the lower level den is now open to the full height of the volume. Instead of a dark living room on each of the two levels, there is now one exciting living space with open views and light. In this house, the strategy of reducing space instead of enlarging the house actually increased its livability.

The balcony is the iconic form that redefines the image and focus of the house. Ipe is used as a screen and framing device. This material brings warmth to the cool California light, creating a more intimate setting and focusing views on the surrounding landscape. Ipe was chosen specifically for its strength and ability to span the entire depth of the porch without intermediate support.

In order to achieve the transparency desired in the porch design, careful collaboration was required with the contractor.
3/8” vertical posts of the balustrade are elegantly toothed between floor slats so there are no visible bolts or hardware that would detract from the sculptural simplicity of the iconic form.

Inside, oak is the primary material of choice. A consistent cut-size and grain direction was used for all floors, kitchen cabinetry, wall panels, stairs, and railings. The countertop is a butcher block.

“The main house on the property had been built in the 1970s as a ‘spec’ house dropped on the hill with no attention to the actual site. The windows were small; the spaces were dark and the whole redwood deck felt like it was entrapping the house instead of making a place to occupy … We wanted light, views and a more transparent porch where we could sit comfortable in the shade.”  – Client