A retired couple found 12 secluded acres on which to build a new home and cultivate a vineyard. The site came with added value: outbuildings and site features worth retaining. These elements served as the starting point of a design with a clear objective, to seamlessly mesh the new home and sport courts with the existing ring road, meandering stone site-walls, pool, patios, outdoor kitchen, and visually commanding outdoor fireplace.
A request from the owners in the conceptual phase added complexity: The new house should evoke the idea of having been “constructed over time”, as commonly occurs on rural properties.
The solution was found via an ensemble of vernacular forms of varying heights and materials. Existing stone site walls inspired the choice of Napa Syar stone to clad the fireplace and three pavilions – entry, kitchen, and master suite. Cedar in a board and batten pattern was assigned to the connecting volumes between or adjacent to the anchoring pavilions. Exterior materials and patterns are expressed inside to delineate each piece and to blur the lines between indoor and out.
The layout of the home along a north/south primary circulation axis parallels the existing pool. With practical relationships in mind, the kitchen was first situated close to the garage and outdoor kitchen. In turn, “public” and “private” quadrants of the home fell into place. A new walkway from new guest parking, defined low stone walls, entices guests up to entry pavilion while offering views over the vineyard to Mt. St. Helena beyond.
From the entry pavilion, a secondary view axis crosses the great room extending through 14 feet of pocketing doors, across the new terrace and old, terminating with the stately outdoor fireplace. The stone pavilions, expressed within the great room, imply the dominant volume had been added connecting the otherwise solitary stone forms.
Drawing upon the existing line between a semi-circular wall and opposing curved steps to the pool, a third axis, was established as a visual and literal passage. It sets off the stone clad master pavilion on one side form the cedar clad wall on the other, suggesting this form too is now enjoined with the larger ensemble.
The separate volumes find unity echoing the existing site-walls with a meandering eave line. Starting as a gable at the west, the line joins the kitchen gable, breaks pitch, pulls back at the terrace and projects out again to become a protective southern facing porch. Turning the corner once more the eave joins with the cedar form that provides contrast, scale, and a final embrace.
Design ChallengeAs I write, the air is still smoky from another year of devastating fires. The Owner’s desire for a self-sustaining home was borne less of interest in metrics for energy efficiency or use of current technology, than the ability to live though fire events and rolling blackouts. With intent and purpose more than challenge, the focus of the Calistoga Estate is one of resilience (including a rain catchment fed organic garden with pollinators and chicken coop) as well as an integrated response to a range of opportunities and constraints. The Owners expected an efficient envelope that meets or exceeds energy standards while the motivator to install solar panels (after completion of T24) was to feed storage batteries and in turn generators to keep the house running during the unknowns of fire season. The Owners wanted upgrades to be at their discretion based upon their determination of ROI. Indeed, permit documented R-values were upgraded at the time of installation. An as-built report was not done although the expected kBTU/year for the solar array reduces the permit noted KBTU/year by 46%. With the property now sold, data documenting yearly actual k/BTU/year usage was not retained and unfortunately not available to share. To note, Items 2-5 of the 2030 challenge were met.
- Apply low/no cost passive design strategies to achieve maximum energy efficiency.
- Integrate energy efficient technology and systems.
- Incorporate on-site and/or off-site renewable energy to meet the remaining energy demands.
- Engage in iterative energy modeling throughout the entire design process to understand the interactive effects of various design decisions and to assess