The house was built in 1998 for a family that loves order in several different ways -- mathematical, musical, mechanical and organizational. The house is an expression of the balance between these forms of order. An underlying grid runs through the whole site connecting all the varied elements like notes on a sheet of music. The site itself sits on the edge of a bluff with a spectacular view over the water to the south. A road cuts diagonally across in front of the house so to counteract this, the house steps back behind layers of landscaping so the street is invisible to the house. To make it more private, the entrance to the house is invisible at the end of the long driveway. By the the visitor goes into the house and out to the terrace on the other side, the memory of the road is gone and the site is perfectly secluded. We call this “defensive landscaping” and it is one of the tools we use to bring a site into balance with its surroundings.
Approaching the house, the shapes of the landscape are woven into the shapes of the building. The landscape slides in and under; the house slide out and over. Border gardens with long sweeps of simple plantings echo the roofs with their long simple projections. The twinkling lights of the house extend out into the porte cochere and the lights of the border garden extend in underneath (although in a more subtle manner when it’s not Christmas.) The walls of the house echo the walls and hedges in the garden.
As you reach the solid glass doors at the main entrance, the house feels as if it is opening up around you. Large sheets of glass cover the porte cochere protecting the whole space from the rain while at the same time eliminating shadows under the overhang.
Floor to ceiling walls of glass and long, thin roof overhangs give the house a feeling of extending effortlessly out into the landscape. The shapes of the landscape echo the simple shapes of the house.
The materials of the house reflect the owners’ interest in appropriate high tech. The site is exposed to very high winds and heavy rain so the windows, roofing and aluminum cladding use the same technology used on skyscrapers. As a result the exterior skin of the house requires very little maintenance and looks virtually new after ten years of exposure to the weather.
￼Layers of sleek metal, soft landscape and frameless glass make the upper terrace merge visually with the landscape below, blurring the distinction between house and site. High hedges, stone walls and strategically placed trees block the view of the street and the surrounding houses making the site merge visually with the ocean beyond.
The stepped shape of the house breaks down the large mass into intimate parts. All parts connect to exterior spaces that are similarly stepped. Moving through the house from part to part has a sense of moving through the landscape and the floor to ceiling glass and free standing columns further blur the distinction between inside and outside.
Above the entry hall, the upper hall is a continuation of the art gallery. Skylights run from end to end to let sunlight in to balance the blue-grey light coming through the glass north wall. To soften the sunlight and hide the skylight itself from view, a large “egg crate” grid breaks up the skylight opening and hides small spotlights that fill in for the sun in the rainy winter months. The effect of these spotlights is to create pools of light that also illuminate the art.
Most of the houses we design have meticulous master dressing rooms. This one has its own special washer and dryer for delicate clothes, as well as glass doors on the fronts of the cabinets to keep dust off clothes that are worn infrequently and to block ultraviolet light that would fade colours.
The kitchen has two parts, one for entertaining and one for everyday cooking. The everyday kitchen can be closed off with two sliding glass panels. The cabinets are painted with an automotive lacquer and the limestone floor has an inset wooden surface for cleanability and comfort.