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california hilltop

Contemporary Luxury House Design Placerville

4305 SF

The siting of the house was very important to the design process for the following reasons: views, ligh, and shelter from the heat of the California sun. The owners have lived on the site since they built their first home there in 1974. While they loved the location they did not think it reasonable to tear down a relatively new home—a home they built themselves. They even bought a new piece of land nearby and started the design process. When they went to sell their first home, including the land with all the trees they had planted and watched grow to maturity, they could not face leaving. Yet something had to change as the original house was dark and took little advantage of the spectacular site.

With the first house gone (it was almost completely recycled, with most of the structural members reused in the new house) a truly remarkable site was revealed with magnificent views over vineyards and valleys and to the Sierras beyond. Rather than build in the same footprint we moved the new house down off the crown of the hill to nestle it into the site more to help embrace its location on a curving slope.

The placement of the building forms (gable roofed rectangles with infill wedges) responds to the sun’s path and the views. One significant design challenge was to create naturally lit spaces while managing the intense summer heat as much as possible. The design fans out toward the view with each segment providing a separate space/function and at the same time an overall design intent of openness and light.

Another significant challenge was that the couple were divided as to what the style of the house  should be: one wanted a house reminiscent of French farm houses and the other wanted a sharply contemporary home. To reconcile these differences, we used local stone for the walls and slate for the roof giving the house mass and a very solid, permanent feeling (the owners intend this house to last for generations). The interstitial spaces (the wedges) contrast with the primary forms both in lightness and in geometry to create spaces that are light and airy, crisp and clean. A Kalwal system was used for the ceiling in those spaces, which provides natural translucent light, a “weightless” quality with a good insulation value (as skylights in this climate were not practical). We selected light-colored limestone slabs for the flooring in these spaces laid out to reflect the angle of the wedges.


Completed: 2005

Awards and Recognition: 

Sacramento Magazine, "Pinnacle of Style", April, 2009

Trends, "Town Meets Country", Vol. 26 No.1, 2010

Trends 50 American Homes, 2012-2013

Category: Contemporary Luxury House Design Placerville, WA