Former clients asked us to look at a 24 acre parcel of fallow farm land they were thinking of buying. The property’s farm status was protected by law but the land had been badly treated by its previous owner and had no municipal services except for electricity. Our first task was to determine the best use for the property and the feasibility of building on it. After studying the property with an agrologist, a climatologist, a vineyardist, a geotechnical engineer and a builder, we concluded that one third of the property was optimal for growing northern varieties of grapes and apples, one third was best left forest because of its topography, and the rest was suitable for the other requirements of a working farm such as barns, gardens, a house and so on. We also concluded that we could develop the property at a reasonable cost and provide reliable water, sewer, and fire protection as part of a comprehensive package. Best of all we were able to do all this without compromising the organic status of the land so the property now produces the only organic wines in the region.
Wide verandas covered with softly curved shingle roofs give the house its distinctive character. Each veranda provides a gently sheltered edge to the garden it faces, and together the verandas define a series of interlocking courtyard spaces.
The house and garage form a protected space in the afternoon sun. The space opens out to the entry courtyard with its view to the Gulf Islands in the distance which can be seen from the sitting area with the gas fire in the foreground.
The entry courtyard is arranged so that after climbing the hill in the car and arriving at the front door, a visitor to the winery turns to see the Gulf Islands spread out across the horizon with every man-made thing hidden from view by the carefully reshaped landscape. On a good day the magnificent white mass of Mount Baker is framed by the end of the major verandas.
The view from the south veranda to the vineyard beyond. To give the vineyard adequate drainage, the topsoil was stripped off into a pile twice the size of the house and then the property was completely regraded. After that the topsoil was spread back across the property. This also allowed us to lower the vineyard slightly so the house would look over top of the vineyard poles. Reshaping the property gave us a massive amount of extra subsoil which we used to reconfigure other parts of the property including the sweeping entry drive which at one point is 18 feet above its original grade
The front entrance hall through the house and down the middle of the vineyard beyond. This gives a sense of the 1000 foot axis that connects all the buildings to each other and to the landscape. In keeping with the farm character, each space is simple and uncluttered, with tumbled limestone or wide plank walnut floors and simple white-painted wood details.
The great room runs the full width of the house with high windows to the east for morning sun, high windows on the south for mid-day sun, and low windows on the west for controlled sun at the hottest time of the day. Hidden under the wide plank floor is an in-floor heating system. In the ceiling above is a forced-air system that provides cooling or supplementary heating from the geothermal heat pumps. To maximize passive cooling, high windows open automatically for ventilation.