Text provided by Knock Architecture & Design
This custom home was imagined anew after wildfire destroyed this quiet block in Glen Ellen CA. The day after the new owners received the keys to their quaint home on this heavily wooded lot in October of 2017, disaster struck.
The Nuns Fire burned the 1960s home and outbuildings to the ground, and all of the ground cover on the property and along the two creeks. Only the most mature oak and redwood trees remained, and these trees constantly served as a source of inspiration and resilience moving forward.
The fire allowed the owners to imagine the property anew. Knock Architecture and Design was brought on to design and implement a new program for the site including an expanded main residence, detached garage, guest house, and pool and accessory structures.
The design departure was a glass and wood mid-century look found in works such as John Lautner’s Schaffer Residence. An L-shaped design was created at inception, with a desire for all the living and primary bedroom space to face the creek and remaining mature oak at the rear of the lot.
A more private secondary bedroom wing including and office was created further away from the main living spaces, and a guest house was placed at the far north end of the property for further privacy for guests and older relatives to reside in the future.
The main open living, dining and kitchen spaces were opened to the view, with large sliding doors, and an 8′ canopy of a cantilevered roof to fully enjoy outdoor living and prevent excessive solar heat gain for the interior spaces.
A new grand staircase was used to connect the different levels of the steep slope found mid-lot, and to connect the pool and lawn area to the main raised living space.
The shape of and massing of the design was massaged meet the strict Sonoma County setbacks for watersheds, while allowing the new spaces for a detached garage, guest house, and pool and storage shed to be arranged in a linear fashion away from one of two creeks along the property edge.
A warm vertical grain clear heart cedar was used to clad the structure, including the walls and overhangs, as it was sourced as a naturally fire-resistant product. New details were implemented throughout the envelope, such as modern ember resistive vents and gutters, slab on grade construction, and Class A roofing, to make this home ready for the chance of another wildfire in the future
The interiors chose to expand the warm tones of the exterior inside. New quarter-sawn fir paneling was used for the walls, ceilings, and cabinetry, and further contrast the industrial poured in place concrete structural slab with radiant heating embedded.
New heat pumps were installed for those occasionally extra warm and calm summer days, but for much of the year the home is passively heated and cooled.
The overall interior employs a very hand-crafted aesthetic, from the concrete floors, poured in place fire pit, hand made tile, macrame art, locally made and built in sideboard and desk, and midcentury brutalist furniture finds by the homeowner.
The lightfilled home connects to nature, and the heart of the home, the dining room features a felled tree from the fire that has taken on a second life as the dining table.
The new home serves as a refuge, as well as a way for the owners to connect to nature as the property returns to life.
Photos by Adam Potts