Treading lightly and designed for maximum solar gain, this house by Feldman Architecture blends into its oak grove setting. Hunkered into the hillside, the earth provides a warm embrace for the building while the separate living and sleeping wings forms a courtyard for cozy nights by the fire.
Atop a narrow ridge with old oak groves on either end, the site has steep meadows and commanding views in all directions.
According to Jonathan Feldman, the owners originally envisioned a meandering Spanish-style house. But such a scheme meant either tearing out a large number of the site’s beautiful oaks or placing the house in the middle of the ridge where it would dominate the site. Above all the clients had fallen in love with the land and wanted a house that would enhance, not detract from, the sites natural beauty. At the same time, they wanted a warm, light-filled house, with ample space to accommodate many guests at once.
Their solution: Positioning the house in the hillside below a cluster of stunning trees and dividing the program into a series of grass-covered “pavilions.” Sinking the house into the hillside diminished its visual impact and left the oak grove largely untouched. Pulling apart the building elements not only broke up the house’s overall massing, but enabled light to penetrate three sides of each element. Additionally, the spaces between the elements became usable outdoor rooms.
On top of each pavilion are native grasses and wildflowers, lessening the visual impact even more when viewed from above. Thermal mass from concrete floors and exposed retaining walls hold in the heat and special Low-E glass was specified that would provide maximum insulation without significantly cutting the important solar heat transmission. Sand-blasted form boards created concrete retaining walls with a soft silvery-wood like texture. The house also benefits form radiant heated floors throughout and to take things even further the insulation between rooms is denim from manufacturing waste and the wood flooring is from certified sources.
Built across a single level, the layout affords privacy to the bedrooms, isolated at each end of the build while still close enough to the main living area. The kitchen is given its rightful place as the center of the house and the dining area is set jutting out into the views, flanked by family and living rooms, providing two areas for entertaining.
Across in the far bedroom wing, the bathrooms are centered for economies in plumbing yet still en suite for both bedrooms. Like all rooms of the house (bar bathrooms), these bedrooms soak up the views down the valley.
Rounding out the rooms is a private study loft, up above the kitchen with access back to the rear garden.
Having a south east facing plot has allowed this house to maximize light, warmth and views in one design. And the courtyard fire, no doubt has heard many a story over long summer evenings.
Architect: Jonathan Feldman AIA, Feldman Architecture, LLP
Project team: Yat Sun Ng & Tom McElroy
Project: Vacation Home / “Family Compound”
Location: Santa Lucia Preserve, Carmel Valley, CA
Completed: September, 2004
House Size: 270 m2
Garage: 50 m2
Lot Size: 49 Acres, of which 47 Acres are protected by an environmental easement
Photos: Paul Dyer