Sonoma Residence

Project Description

This modern, single-story, vineyard residence was influenced by Japanese pagoda roof forms using a textural material palette of low-carbon rammed earth, corrosion-resistant corten steel, renewable wood, and high-performing glass. Designed to touch lightly and integrate into the rugged, prehistoric terrain, the new, one-bedroom abode was conceived as a series of interlocking boxes, arranged to maximize the views and complement the beauty of the site. 

The low-lying structure appears to arise from the scattered boulders that dot the 300-acre property. The striated rammed earth walls frame windswept trees and seem to map the rows of grapevines that hug the hillside below. Corten steel siding, reminiscent of the surrounding volcanic lava rock, define the structure’s distinct geometric forms. A raised, pagoda-style roof marks the arid skyline and works in concert with the expanses of glass window walls that allow the home to open to the land.

Inside is equally as contemplative. The rammed earth is accentuated against neutral paint colors and accents of walnut, shou sugi ban, blackened steel, and poured concrete floors that were worked into a unique distressed finish. Wood and natural light abounds. Exposed walnut ceilings extend to the outdoors, covering pathways and al fresco seating. Throughout, artwork and objets d’ art, collected from the couple’s travels, are tastefully displayed.

Program: 1 bed, 2 bath with great room, office, yoga studio, wine room, laundry room, and outdoor deck

Design Challenge

The client wanted a light-filled, minimalist home that would act in dialogue with the tranquility of the site. They wanted a home with heart and soul to reflect their Eastern aesthetics — a healthy, mindful space with unobstructed views of the surrounding hilly vineyards and the San Francisco Bay to the distant South. Specific challenges included: finding an affordable, high-performing minimalist window and glazed door system that would maximize views without detracting from the simplicity of the design, designing rammed earth walls with embedded plate steel sills and door openings, and creating a sense of zen while embracing a modern vineyard vernacular. 

Physical Context

Sited on 300-acres of rugged, prehistoric terrain with a 50-acre vineyard, the house is accessed by a narrow, winding road, nestled atop a knoll below a dramatic ridgeline in the Moon Mountain District American Viticultural Area that overlooks the Sonoma Valley grape-growing region and the San Francisco Bay. Scattered boulders and volcanic lava rock define steep hillsides. Planted grapevines create an oasis of greenery in an otherwise toffee-colored, arid landscape.  By siting the house along the ridge, using materials that mimic the temperament of the land, and creating a staggered form versus linear arrangement, the singe-story building with its contemplative pagoda-style roof appears to be birthed from the rocks, acting in complete harmony with its surroundings.