Graceful echo

This residence, by Mark Koestner, captures the spirit of an earlier house
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View of exterior with trees in foreground.

When an earthquake shakes apart your much-loved home, rebuilding in a similar style is one option. However, when the old structure was adobe brick, a seismic-proof alternative will be the likely way forward.

This was the loose backstory when the owners of this house approached architect Mark Koester to build afresh on the site of their fondly remembered home. The expansive setting atop a hill on a 3000-acre preserve lent itself to a ranch house style, says Koester.

"To this end, we created a strong, low residence with classic board-and-batten siding and a standing-seam metal roof. Screened porches and trellised terraces extend the farmhouse vernacular and shade the home from the region's intense summer sun and winter rains," he says.

"The covered porch also offers speedy external access across the home's frontage and to the connected garage alongside."

Although the design follows a formal ranch-like aesthetic, several architectural touches play down its scale and introduce a more earthy, approachable presence.

To lessen the perceived scale and visual impact, several dormers were added. While these are an expected look for a rural farmhouse, the architect designed them in larger proportions for this house.


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Bathroom with grey tiled flooring and white tub.

"This enabled the upstairs bedrooms to protrude beyond the roofline, which in turn allowed us to minimize the height of the bearing trusses lowering the height of the overall structure," says Koester.

To evoke an authentic, rustic aesthetic, Koester exposed the metal roofing on the underside of the eaves. This brought the feel that the residence had been built with no-frills functionality in mind much like the approach that might be taken for a real, rough-and-ready, farmhouse.

"While the new house is in a different style to the much-loved, earlier building, the use of similar siting and keeping the sequence of living spaces diagrammatically the same carries the spirit of the original residence into this design."

An echo of the earlier design is all that really ties the past to the present. Otherwise the new house is a complete departure from what went before, with contemporary, open-space planning and strong axial relationships between rooms.

The ability to look from one room through to another, and then yet another, creates a peaceful, restful environment.

"This creates a visual layering of all indoor and outdoor spaces and frames extended vistas out across the countryside a popular wine growing region."

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Lounge with cream sofas and floor matt.

In other ways, the spacious interior continues the rugged farmhouse feel. Many of the internal walls and all sloped ceilings are finished in vertical wood boards to create the look of covered porches. A fireplace built into the modern kitchen evokes the functional, heart-of-the-home nature of a rural cooking space.

The kitchen area is supported by a large butler's pantry and wine storage room. This freed up wall space for more windows that would have otherwise been taken up with cabinetry.

Throughout the house, provision was also made for clear wall spaces to hang the owners' sizeable art collection.

Cabinetry throughout the home is quarter-sawn limed oak, and all floors are Brazilian black slate. A restrained palette of materials, colors and finishes reinforces the casual atmosphere.

"Long internal vistas, a generous use of glazing and covered porches all give the house an appealing, light-filled, indoor-outdoor quality," says Koester. "I took great care to ensure the extended sightlines culminate in an object on the landscape or an artwork a visual reward for gazing right through the home."

Jul 20, 2012
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