written by:
photos by:
April 2, 2014
Designed to harness the sun, architect Birgitte Hovmøller's vacation house features a roof full of solar panels and plenty of space for an extended family to relax.
the white composite exterior of a vacation home in California
Ornamenting the eastern facade of the Sunrise House, slotted windows set in one-foot thick walls introduce light into the home without inviting in excessive amounts of heat.
Photo by 
1 / 8
the view of the garden through the windows of the open-concept kitchen and dining spaces
Glass windows wall in the open-concept kitchen-dining spaces of the Sunrise House while glass doors open the spaces out into the garden beyond.
Photo by 
2 / 8
lime green chairs around a dark wood table in a red room full of sunshine
Inspired by Scandinavian and Mexican contemporary and traditional design, the Sunrise house has a bright, clean, and eclectic color palette.
Photo by 
3 / 8
a view of the kitchen from the open-concept dining room

Designed to harness the sun, architect Birgitte Hovmøller's vacation house near San Diego features a roof full of solar panels and plenty of space for an extended family to relax. Finished in a dark wood, the kitchen features white metal countertops and shelving. A white pendant light, white sheer curtain and a white wall tie the interior design scheme in with the home's exterior palette.

Photo by 
4 / 8
an outdoor terrace shaded by mango trees
On the sunset side of the Sunrise house, the home's west terrace is shaded by mango trees.
Photo by 
5 / 8
a wall of windows between the bedroom and the courtyard
Shielding the bedroom from the courtyard, a black curtain affords privacy while the slotted window above the bed ensures that even when privacy is wanted, the room is bathed in light.
Photo by 
6 / 8
a tan stone wall with a white sink
An outdoor sink ties indoor living spaces into outdoor living spaces, adding to the fluidity and openness of the home.
Photo by 
7 / 8
the nighttime facade featuring glass windows and a white thick roof
Windows shielded by the white overhand of the roof offer an elegant facade while shielding residents from the glare of the sun's sharpest rays.
Photo by 
8 / 8
the white composite exterior of a vacation home in California
Ornamenting the eastern facade of the Sunrise House, slotted windows set in one-foot thick walls introduce light into the home without inviting in excessive amounts of heat.
Project 
Sunrise House
Architect 

The Sunrise House, an architect's retreat just north of San Diego, in Vista, California, is bright and solar-powered. With its wide glass windows, a solar-powered water heater and a roof featuring solar panels and a solar electric system, the home uses California's most celebrated element to power all of its modern conveniences.

As one of the two principals of the San Francisco-based Giraph Design firm, Hovmøller specializes in residential work, both on the California coastline and in her home country of Denmark. She built this particular project for her family's use, with her own family and members of her extended family using the home as a temporary vacation residence according to their differing schedules. With a sister in-law living close-by, Hovmøller says, "The daytime activities takes place at my sister in-laws place, and the Sunrise House is the retreat." The 1,800 square foot, two bedroom home also features a 500 square foot workshop on the same property, offering more beds and additional space so all the family is welcome.


Hovmøller's sustainable design decisions extend beyond her use of solar power. Nearly maintenance free walls of Perform Wall paneling, a light-weight, fire-proof, highly insulating, termite proof hybrid material made of eighty-five percent recycled cement, polystryrene and water, secure the home from typical sources of wear and tear. The insulated glass and recycled steel framing of the home's windows and glass doors ensure that it is draft free. The home is cooled, not by a sophisticated cooling system but by natural ventilation from its many windows, with solar-powered fans supplementing on particularly hot afternoons. With drought resistant plants and trees as the only landscaping, the Sunrise house exhibits aspects of passively sustainable design. Instead of employing elaborate or high tech mechanisms to counter moments of environmental harshness, Hovmøller used slotted windows, thick walls and an overhang to shelter the home from summer's most cutting blades of sunlight. '

Such passive solutions reflect the principles of the styles that inspired Hovmøller: Scandinavian and Mexican contemporary and traditional design, which all feature clean lines, and rustic and minimalist elements. Visible from the home's west terrace, the lemon and mango trees fringe the property, reclining over the Sunrise house: the fruit of Hovmøller's labors.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Concrete floor, white walls, Bend sectional sofa, Metropolitan chair by B&B Italia, and Arper pouf in living room of Rhode Island family vacation home by Bernheimer Architecture.
Create comfortable areas to lounge, sit, eat, and entertain with these designs.
February 12, 2016
São Paulo apartment dining room with local wood floors and HAY chairs
From concrete to wood, these South American homes enjoy nature inside and out.
February 12, 2016
Custom cabinetry and trim in Chicago apartment renovation.
The Second City is second to none when it comes to inventive modern architecture, from Louis Sullivan to the present day.
February 12, 2016
Kitchen of 1956 midcentury modern Palm Springs home.
Celebrate Palm Springs Modernism Week, which runs from February 11–21, with a look at some of our favorite modern desert oases.
February 12, 2016
Gustav bicycle by Coh&Co
Designmuseum Danmark unveils a permanent collection highlighting new developments in Danish design.
February 12, 2016
A Seattle studio's courtyard
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 12, 2016
Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016