Sonoma became the destination of choice for a small group of Bay Area friends, who each found and purchased properties near town. The client chose this steep, wooded 17-acre site with volcanic rock fields less than 2 miles north of the historic square.
The feel was to be rural contemporary, with clean geometry and a palette of natural materials, including large expanses of glass, rectilinear stone veneer, horizontal cedar siding, and concrete. Preserving and taking best advantage of the existing oak woodland and volcanic rock outcroppings was of paramount importance. A new compound of buildings would replace an earlier home that took no advantage of the views of Sonoma Valley and across the Bay to San Francisco. The landscape architect worked with the architect and builder to take best advantage of the limited level space, stepping the buildings, auto court, terraces and outdoor rooms up and down the site. The entire compound is off-grid, generating enough energy with hidden PV panels to power all on site electrical needs, and charge the owner’s electric vehicles.
Where the gravel private lane leaves the county road, low gently curving walls planted with Stachys and Bouteloua frame the entry. These walls utilize on-site boulders fit together in the Inca style of tight mortar-less jointing. Taller entry walls veneered in the more mannered Montana stone of the residence, with an automatic steel gate designed to echo the railings at the residence, provide security and announce the entry into the property. A loop drive system was designed to create resident and fire department access, while preserving as many existing trees as possible.
At the lowest developed level, a guesthouse, game room, and small play lawn are tucked into the trees. All are overlooked by the concrete terrace and seat walls at the Car Barn half a floor up. The Car Barn and ground floor of the residence are accessed from the gravel auto court, where a custom concrete fountain element mirrors the height differentials of the owners’ three adult children.
The client desired most of their daily living on one level, so the second floor bedrooms, kitchen and great room open out onto the concrete pool terrace, all with views over the Sonoma Valley and beyond to San Francisco across the Bay. Custom concrete outdoor kitchen counters echo the stone waterfall kitchen island, accented with the same horizontal cedar as the buildings. Arbors of woven willow panels set in steel frames provide much needed filtered shade, and help define the outdoor dining room and outdoor living room with custom concrete fire pit.
Stone and gravel steps leading up to the top level feature a planted grotto at the midway landing. At the top of the site, formerly a weedy, rock strewn knoll the clients thought they’d never venture out to, a destination with spectacular views was waiting to be uncovered. A gravel terrace with gas fire pit utilizing a dramatic existing volcanic rock as its backdrop overlooks a bocce court laid into a gap in the native rock outcroppings. The moon garden of light greens, greys and whites plays off the lichen color on the rocks, and gathers the evening light in the Valley of the Moon.
The pool captures the reflection of existing oaks, and two recirculating water elements provide respite from the hot summer sun, while the naturalistic sweeps of plantings rely heavily on native materials to connect the compound to its surroundings.
Awards: 2017 ASLA National Honor Award, 2018 ASLA NCC Merit Award – Residential Design Category
Architecture: Cahill Studio Sonoma
Construction: Landers Curry, Inc.
Landscape Construction: Siteworks, Inc.
Custom Concrete Elements: Bohemian Stoneworks
Photography: Marion Brenner