Thanks to a prefab in-law unit,
an octogenarian modernist lives
independently on a peaceful,
verdant site in Sonoma, California. The 1,600-square-foot residence has two bedrooms and two baths for its 87-year-old resident, whose daughter lives nearby.
“The layout is well-suited for older clients,” says Jared Levy of Connect:Homes. “It feels generous and open.” The architects used Teragren bamboo flooring and Milgard sliding glass doors. “Universal design isn’t just for older people,” the resident's daughter says about the single-story layout and zero-step entries. “If you don’t need steps, don’t have them.”
In the Napa Valley, one sustainable residence elegantly demonstrates straw bale technology. Though visible elements of green design are found throughout the residence—from the recycled-glass and concrete countertops to the energy-efficient appliances—the straw bale that’s cleverly packed to make two-foot-thick walls is perhaps the architect's favored sustainable solution.
A waste product that’s typically burned in the fields after the harvest, straw both acts as an excellent insulator and reduces the amount of wood used in construction. Ever aware of context, architect Henry Siegel says of his house, “A lot of architects’ buildings look better on a pedestal than in context. Our design would look out of place on a pedestal—we placed it so it really fits its specific site.”
Two designers restored this low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist. One pours wine in the kitchen, which is defined by a low concrete-block wall and serves as the home’s central core. The seating-area chairs are from Herman Miller.
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts in this Sonoma home. “Creating efficient space is valuable, but for us, rooms that offer visual and spatial continuity with nature are also important,” architect Julie Dowling explains. “When the sliding doors are open, the living room and kitchen double in size.”
To install the client’s prefab house, Stillwater Dwellings lifted the structure over an existing barn on the one-acre Napa property. The client, who is often on the road, also wired the house with the latest in smart technology.
A new spin on rammed-earth construction aims to bring the method to the masses: David Easton, a pioneer in the field of rammed-earth construction, developed sturdy blocks made from recycled and waste material and then used them to build a Napa house for himself and his wife, Cynthia Wright, in collaboration with designer Juliet Hsu.