Architect / Firm: Amy A. Alper, Architect
Project Location: 921 Litchfield Sebastopol, California
Owner: Stephen Leander and Wina Natsir
Completion Date: 02/01/2017
Site opportunities and constraints of this hillside property, along with the need for a flexible floor plan, serve as the primary design generators for this 2250 square foot home for a young family whose programmatic needs are sure to change over time.
The key constraint of this property was a view easement established when the original parcel was subdivided into three. The easement sweeps obliquely across the site leaving a triangular area upon which to build. The rear property line setback (non parallel to the front) further impacted available area on which to build rectilinear forms best suited to a limited budget. Access to the uphill flag lot is along a shared drive with its own dimensional requirements to be met in order to create a drive court with adequate maneuverability.
SITING AND OPPORTUNITIES
With these constraints in mind, the project was conceived to highlight the opportunities presented by the site. At the southeast corner of the property, a shielding grove of trees serves as a backdrop to the house and a privacy screen from the adjacent uphill residence. There was a clear "sweet spot" within the buildable area to set the main level of the house. From there, northward views to the City of Sebastopol and the distant mountains are at their fullest and most dramatic.
Arriving guests park just ahead of the entry stairs that begin the playful switchback path to the main entry. Upon approach the house presents its most public face - the entry vestibule and two story living room window wall.
MASSING AND MATERIALITY
Shed rooflines and the offset of similar forms modulate the massing. Standard sized cementitious panels are shifted one layer to the next, as is the irregular batten pattern, so as to moderate the scale of the tall walls and emulate the rhythm and array of the grove behind the house. The choice of a monochromatic palette puts the emphasis on texture, pattern and depth as the sun moves around the house.
A segment of the single level west wall reaches out from the landing to mark “arrival". It turns to become an parapet wall that penetrates into the house separating the second level loft from the two story living space. The Owners claimed the dramatic loft space as their own for their master bedroom. The datum lines established continue the "horizontal counterpoint" through to the exterior again, until its termination the stairway.
CIRCULATION and FLEXIBILITY
A straight circulation path, running from the entry past the living and dining rooms to the stairway, separates and links the flexible spaces. With the pull of a pocket door, the main level bedroom can become an en-suite guest room. The dining room, with cross views to the north deck and south patio can be screened off as a playroom while the children are young. Upstairs, the deep landing provides an unexpected spot for reading or an office space. The family room at the second level is open to the stairwell. It separates the master bedroom from the shared children’s room but can be modified to a fourth bedroom in the future.
The open volumes from the lower to the upper level and operable skylights allows for evacuation of warm air and the capture of cool evening breezes. Insulation and low-emissivity glazing exceed Cal Green standards in order to eliminate the need for air conditioning except on the hottest days.