Sebastopol Hillside Residence

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Site opportunities and constraints serve as the primary genesis of this home on a gentle but influential hill.

Before all else, there was the reckoning with a significant view easement that sends a gash across the property, leaving only limited and triangular residual area upon which to provide a home with a flexible plan for a young family whose programmatic needs are sure to change over time. The rear property line setback (non parallel to the front) further impacted available area on which to build.

As an overlay, the City of Sebastopol limits building height to no more than 30 feet above existing grade at any given point, 5 feet lower than requirements in most other area jurisdictions.
Access to the flag lot parcel is from a shared drive adding complication from the budgetary burden and dimensional minimums necessary to create a drive court with adequate maneuverability for cars – owner’s and guest spots.

With the constraints in mind, the project was conceived to highlight the opportunities presented by the site. A mature grove of fir and oak trees at the furthest and highest point of the site and (protected) adjacent site would serve as the backdrop to the house. The buildable area had a clear sweet spot – the obvious elevation from which the views from the house would be their most dramatic. The design then unfolded as a response to sequence to and from the two and consideration of that means for the form, materiality and layout.

Upon approach, the house presents its most public face – a two story glazed window wall. The solid walls are finished in a unique approach to board and batten , shifted and irregular to a)work with the standard material size b) mitigate the height of tall walls – a function of approach from below and c) a play on the random backdrop of the tree trunks.

The “flying wall”, an extension of the entry form (and deck off the master) folds back toward the house and aligns with the parapet wall between the loft like master bedroom and two story space below. Guest parking occurs at the far west if the property so sequence follows a linear flow – car exit, wedding cake stairs to the first landing and a switchback approach to the main level. A single circulation path through the both separates and links program. A cross axis is set up between kitchen and living space and with the dining room – caught between outdoor deck with expansive view and intimate patio with uphill and trees finishing it as enclosed space.

Flexibiity is built into the plan in many ways the dining room can be screened and become a play room with options for dining at the island or close to the window wall, the main level bedroom can become an ensuite guest room by use of a pocket door and upstairs, an extended landing can become a reading nook or small office and the TV/sitting/playroom, open to the stairwell, can be closed off with a wall should a fourth bedroom be needed in the future.

Enhanced insulation and Low E glazing as well as the two story volumes leading to skylights and screened doors meant to evacuate warm air that might pool at the upper level will mitigate the needs for air conditioning except on the hottest days.

The result is a residence that serves the drama of approach and procession to and through and then gives way to views - both intimate and expansive.

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