Triple Barn House

Project Description

This Sonoma County Residence for a chef and her husband uses traditional, agrarian forms and raw materials to root itself into the site and broader regional context. Both the building’s form and materials borrow from the barns that define the region’s vernacular architecture.

The upper volume is clad in rusted, weathering steel reflecting both the red iron-coloured earth of the site as well as the agricultural barns in the region.  In contrast, the interior was meant to have simple and bright materials to give the house a casual atmosphere. All walls were kept white to enable a bright space and not distract from the views framed in the large punched windows. To add warmth and tactility to the project, Douglas Fir treated with lye and white oil was used on the floors and cabinetry. An informal landscape softly envelops the home and connects the experience on all tiers of the site.

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is modest in size at 1750 square feet, so an optimized plan enables living spaces to attain a gracious feeling, even if they are compact. The guest bedrooms and utility spaces are tucked towards the back facade of house for an introverted atmosphere and a private experience of the site. Forming the primary living and connective space, the gathering spaces and master suite inhabit the front, outward–looking band of the home, poised appreciate 240 degrees of views. The Master Suite is enclosed with glazing, rather than a solid partition, to allow unimpeded visibility from one end of the house to the other.

The clients wanted both a relaxing, private home and a farm-to-table cooking laboratory designed for gatherings. To accommodate a large gathering, the kitchen extends outdoors under a deep cantilevered eave. This overhang establishes a continuation of space, directly connecting the interior kitchen with an outdoor kitchen and working vegetable garden. Its shade provides necessary cover from the intense Sonoma sun. With the indoor and outdoor kitchen merged, the space doubles in capacity—ideal for hosting dinner parties (for up to one hundred guests) or one of the client’s informative cooking classes. The landscape design underscores this indoor/outdoor lifestyle by connecting and programming a series of existing, natural terraces from which to appreciate the property.

The interior furnishings of the house were selected with a dusty sun-bleached palette to allow the brightness of the house to reign and suggest that the furnishings had been in the space for a long time. Because the house can read as one room, the palette of each room needed to be complementary to the next. Vintage light fixtures and industrial furnishings were strategically placed in the home to root it to its agricultural heritage.


Design Challenge

The design team sought to develop a strategy that embraces the site's steep slope and panoramas, while addressing the challenge of accommodating fire-truck access, essential in Northern California. This resultant form is a series of three volumes that follow the grade's curvature to tuck against its dramatic slope. These three gabled volumes converge in a single convex form that, by wrapping the hillside, maximizes its outward frontage to the vista beyond. The steel clad house is perched and partially cantilevered over concrete retaining walls which carve a void out of the hillside to accommodate a dual-purpose covered entry court and fire-truck hammerhead at the driveway terminus.  

Physical Context

The property sits atop a hill at the dead-end of a rural road in wildfire-prone Sonoma, California.  The upper volume of the home is clad in rusted, weathering steel; its tones echo the iron-red rusty soil indigenous to the site. It's bold rust hue also evokes the building's agrarian roots and the rusted metal roofs of neighboring barns, while the lower level concrete is left rough and unfinished.   The steel and concrete exterior also address the ongoing climate issues the region of Sonoma is battling, offering protective armour against wildfires prevalent to the area.