New home planned around two box-like structures – one clad in cedar, the other in Corten steel

Despite site limitations, this ridgetop home nestles perfectly into its surroundings, making the most of views all round and the benign climate

If you had a 3.25ha site on which to build a new home, you might think a lot of the initial discussion would be about where to place the house to best advantage. But that wasn’t the case when designing  this Napa Valley home says architect Jim Zack.

His design needed to take into account the sloping nature of the ridgetop site, ensure it complied with strict building codes for the area, as well as include a 300m driveway with a substantial  turning bay, to allow access for fire trucks if needed in the hot, dry seasons.

A previous owner of the site had already obtained approvals for a house on a particular spot, which gave Zack a little more latitude than current code restrictions and also met all the other site requirements.

“So there really was only that one place to  put the house,” he says.

“It’s a dramatic site, with great views to the west across the valley, and to the top of a wooded hill to the east.

“But it was also challenging, as there was not a lot of space in the building area.”

That challenge increased when the owner’s requirements – 20-30 pages that included photos, dimensions and detailed descriptions for every room – were added into the mix.

“It turned out to be a lot more extensive than the modest vacation home we thought it was going to be at first.

“To accommodate everything, we’ve ended up with a 390m², three-bedroom home – complete with a lap pool right up against the side of the home.”

While the house was primarily for the  two owners, they also wanted to use it for entertaining and to have guests stay. So while it needed to be as open as possible to the views, it also needed defined public and private spaces.

Working with the very limited footprint, Zack planned a long rectangular house running lengthwise to the ridge.

“This focuses every room on the view – some having views both to the valley on one side and the forest on the other – plus every room has access to the exterior.”

Living, dining and kitchen areas occupy one open-plan space in a red cedar box, while the bedroom structure is clad in Corten steel, which will weather over time.

A long corridor runs through both boxes, giving a sight line from the front entrance through to the master bedroom at the other end of the house. Pocket doors can close off the master suite at times when privacy is required.

And running outside the length of the bedroom wing and beyond is the 26 x 2.5m lap pool that the client wanted.

“Technically, it was a design challenge, because the pool is sharing the house foundation. But it means that you can literally open the sliding doors and drop into the pool from the master bedroom.”

Zack’s design also reflects classic Napa Valley style, taking maximum advantage of the area’s benign climate with extensive outdoor living areas.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous there for eight months of the year, so indoor-outdoor living is also a key requirement,” he says.

Outside the cedar box is an extensive outdoor living area, which also connects to the pool. This accommodates a full outdoor kitchen – including a large barbecue and pizza oven – a second island/bar, a 14-seat outdoor dining table and a comfortable lounge seating.

Providing shelter for much of this space is a large, wood-lined canopy that projects from the interior living space. Two substantial blackened steel beams extend out 4.5m to support the canopy and tie in with the home’s structural frame.

“We chose cement tiles for this area, partially for aesthetic reasons, but also because we could use them inside and outside to create a seamless connection.”

The canopy’s wood ceiling also continues slightly inside, further blurring the line between indoors and outdoors.

“Whilst the interior living area is relatively modest, four large glass panels pull back and stack, creating a much more extensive space with spectacular valley views.”

Credit list

Jim Zack, Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction
Fairweather & Associates
Wine Country Pools
Doors & windows
Blomberg, La Cantina
Tile flooring
Concrete tiles by Concrete Collaborative
Tech Lighting, Agnes Chandelier (dining)
Dining table and credenzas – custom design by architect; bar stools – Deer Bar Stool by De La Espada; dining chairs – Deer Side Chair by De La Espada; sofa and ottoman – Michel Effe by B&B Italia; occasional chairs – Noomi Swivel Chair by DWR
Outdoor countertops
By Concrete Collaborative
Kitchen sink
Oven and cooktop
Interior design
Lise de Vito and Sarah Nicholas, Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction
Structural engineer
Strandberg Engineering
Corten, red cedar
Wood flooring
Engineered Eucalyptus by Arborica
Paints & varnishes
Benjamin Moore
Outdoor furniture
Bar stools – Isabela Stool by Sossego; dining table – Regatta by Crate & Barrel; dining chairs & ottoman – Finn Dining Chair by DWR;Sofas – Tru Pure by Henry Hall
Indoor kitchen countertop

Story by: Paul Taylor

Photography by: Cesar Rubio

16 Mar, 2019

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