San Francisco–based architects Brit and Daniel Epperson transformed a 1974 A-frame into a bright and airy getaway tucked away in the woods. Located seven miles from the coast in the Sonoma County township of Cazadero, the A-frame is perched on Austin Creek, a fish spawning tributary that meanders its way into the Russian River.
"It’s almost impossible to buy a home in San Francisco," Brit says with a laugh. "This is a way for us to get this out of our system."
Over the course of 18 months, the couple spent their weekends working on the house. They did most of the renovation themselves, although they had family and friends help out here and there. For instance Brit’s brother Barrett Karber, a San Francisco–based furniture maker, built the carpentry and furnishings.
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"It had great bones. The structure hadn’t been compromised, and it was true to the original idea of an A-frame," says Brit. "The negative to that is that we had to gut everything, pull out all the old finishes, and strip it down to give it a nice fancy face-lift."
The couple were originally drawn to the cabin because of the old-growth redwood timber that was used to construct it. "It was in great shape," adds Brit. "We didn’t have to do much to the shell."
The 1,088-square-foot cabin originally had two bedrooms and one bath. A contractor was brought in to frame and drywall a bathroom on the lower level in the second bedroom’s closet.
The Eppersons’ overall goal was to transform the dark cabin into a bright and airy space. "It is very shaded by the trees, which is beautiful," says Brit. "But we wanted to make it more of a lantern of light in the middle of the woods. That is what drove a lot of our design decisions—trying to make it as open and bright as possible."
After the cabin was gutted, Brit and Daniel painted the walls and wood ceiling in Sherwin-Williams Alabaster to reflect the natural lighting that filters through the forest. Light European oak floors warm up the all-white space.
"Having this brilliant white box in the woods allowed us to maximize the effect of any sunlight we could bring in," says Daniel. "So that became the shell within which we were working, and we could play with contrasts or soft tones of color."
The blank canvas also gave the couple the opportunity to display their collection of artistic furnishings. As furniture lovers, the couple took time to cherry-pick exactly which pieces they wanted to showcase in the space.
"Those were marital negotiations between two designers," says Brit with a chuckle. "We both love furniture. It was a slow process. Everything is really personal."
Most of the furniture was built by the couple or Brit’s brother Barrett. Other decorative elements were collected over time—and through their travels. The art on the walls comes from Creativity Explored, a nonprofit art organization for developmentally disabled artists, where Brit sits on the board of directors.
To create warmth and intimacy within the all-white space, the Eppersons used black architectural details to delineate the kitchen and living room as cozy gathering areas.
"The key to the design ended up being the spaces where the fire is lit, where the people gather, and where the warmth is," says Daniel. "In those areas, we wanted to have a kind of ‘inverse beacon,’ where the dark calls from the light."
A black stone fireplace surround extends 18 feet to the ceiling, and black cabinetry, countertops, and backsplash envelop the kitchen. The juxtaposition of rustic white with sleek, modern black creates a striking and sophisticated visual tension.
While modernizing the cabin was the couple’s main priority, Brit and Daniel also worked to keep some of the A-frame’s original details, such as the wood-burning stone and the wood ceiling, in order to highlight the structure’s origin.
"A-frames are so nostalgic," says Brit. "We are drawn to them. It was great to find this place and feel like, ‘Oh good, we can work with this.’"
Architect of Record: Studio PLOW
Builder/General Contractor: Larry Horne Builder
Interior Design: Studio PLOW
Cabinetry Design: Studio PLOW with Barrett Karber
Kitchen Appliances: Fisher & Paykel