SMALL HOUSE IN AN OLIVE GROVE

This one-bedroom house is located on an agricultural property in Sonoma owned by two scientists. We were asked for a structure that would take advantage of hillside views and integrate more sustainable utilities over the 25-acre site. Energy is now supplied by a new solar array, sized to power the entire property and all buildings and equipment.

At a mere 850-square foot, the house is situated at the top of an olive orchard where breezes and shade are maximized. We also made sure to exploit the open area so that no hardwood trees were removed. The goal was to emphasize outdoor living areas that would be intimate for two people but accommodate larger groups for entertaining.

Anchored into the steep hillside with a series of concrete retaining walls and cascading exterior decks, the structure has a much grander presence than one would assume from its size. A site strategy of cascading spaces embracing the slope and relating the inside and outside at every level is an ambitious concept, yet one least intrusive to the natural topography. The circulation always directs one to the open views, while the fenestration protects from the hot southern sun in favor of soft northern light. The fun of living there is in the plentitude of special openings, details, and secret nooks that allow many options for places to be at different times of day.

The circulation always directs one to the open views while the fenestration protects from the hot southern sun in favor of soft northern light.

The fun of living there is in the plentitude of special openings, details and secret nooks that allow many options for places to be at different times of day.