When Jan O’Brien and Craig Hartman first set foot on an undeveloped rural plot of land alongside Chalk Hill Street southeast of Healdsburg, they had been initially a bit uncertain, although that rapidly modified. “There was just a bit truck path to the highest of the hill, and we got here up it and appeared again out and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that is simply unbelievable,’” says Hartman. “Regardless of the web site had in thoughts, the home was at all times going to be daring.”
As architects, O’Brien and Hartman might parse each the promise and the actual challenges of the positioning. Each have been with the agency Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for many years. O’Brien focuses on inside structure and residential design, whereas Hartman serves as a senior consulting accomplice for initiatives corresponding to Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Gentle, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles, and the Worldwide Terminal at San Francisco Worldwide Airport. The couple raised two youngsters in Marin whereas overseeing large-scale initiatives in San Francisco and China, work that related with themes of social justice and environmental sustainability.
Given the couple’s grounding in inexperienced design, it was becoming that Hartman and O’Brien related so deeply with the agricultural, rolling panorama of Chalk Hill. “It feels rooted in outdated Sonoma County,” says O’Brien. “It’s one of many causes we needed to be right here. This space has agrarian roots; there’s cattle round. Not the whole lot being vineyards is form of good.”
The 840-square-foot dwelling the pair designed is nestled tightly in a stand of valley oaks and consists of two separate rectangular pavilions which might be related by an open-air walkway. The choice to separate the areas with a breezeway was meant to have interaction the couple of their pure environment — even on a wet day, one has to go exterior to get from one portion of the house to the opposite. “We spent quite a lot of time serious about that and never leaving an excessive amount of to probability,” says Hartman. “Although in the long run,” provides O’Brien, “the serendipitous issues are the issues we love — corresponding to when a department breaks, and it utterly adjustments the view.”
The marginally bigger pavilion, dubbed the daytime pavilion, has the kitchen, eating space, and lounge, together with a entrance deck that spans the width of the area. From right here, Hartman and O’Brien soak up a broad sweep of open area, together with the precise Chalk Hill, with its light-colored soils, a stand of redwoods, a number of neighbors’ houses, and a small slice of vineyards within the distance, a part of Warnecke Ranch. It’s an ever-changing view as layers of morning fog burn away, regularly revealing the land and its wildlife. “We appear to be on a migratory path by means of right here,” says Hartman. “You see geese and geese flying by means of, nearly at eye degree generally. We’ve had pigs, a lot of deer, clearly, and foxes.”
The smaller nighttime pavilion has the first bed room, the house’s solely toilet, and an workplace/visitor room, the place Hartman usually works, and the place the couple’s daughter frolicked in the course of the pandemic. Each pavilions had been designed to sit down gently within the panorama. “We did quite a lot of 3D mock-ups earlier than committing to something.
For probably the most half, it labored out,” says Hartman.
The general impact is an ethereal simplicity — important, elemental areas, pared again to the furnishings, books, and artwork the couple loves the very best.
Establishing a house on a hilly, rural lot meant serious about points that neither architect had addressed earlier than. “We rapidly needed to study concerning the infrastructure of constructing in a spot like this,” explains Hartman. “Primary was the effectively, and quantity two was the septic area. We did some backof- the-envelope evaluation of what it was going to price.”
In addition they needed to consider street entry, rainwater storage tanks, and the house’s electrical energy wants, which they’ve addressed with a photo voltaic array and batteries.
“I feel a part of it’s, it’s at all times going to be a leap of religion,” says O’Brien. “Sooner or later, you do fall in love, and also you go, ‘Properly, we’ll make it work.’”
In the summertime of 2019, Hartman and O’Brien had been about launch a mission to construct a second dwelling additional up the hill. However a number of days earlier than they had been to go to the allow workplace, the Kincade fireplace turned these plans the wrong way up. Because the blaze moved by means of the property, O’Brien and Hartman evacuated to Marin, internet hosting their Chalk Hill neighbors, who had been additionally fleeing the flames. Their dwelling fared effectively — its concrete basis and steel cladding provided robust safety. However they determined to desert plans for an additional constructing on the prime of the ridge. After what they’d witnessed, that web site felt too uncovered.
The expertise with the Kincade fireplace did assist the couple perceive the resilience of the land. Although the fireplace consumed dry grass and some bushes, the land rebounded and animals returned. “It’s wonderful how rapidly the property recovered from the fireplace. The following yr, it was nearly invisible,” says Hartman.
The couple and their canine, Gryffin, have embraced the rhythms of a life centered across the land. Gryffin likes to comply with the deer and hawks, bounding off into the hills to smell out thrilling issues. Hartman and O’Brien hold match with out of doors initiatives, planting native toyon bushes to maintain wildlife and cultivating a patch of valley oak seedlings close to the home.
Weedwacking is their new train, jokes O’Brien, who as soon as needed to go to pressing care to get a foxtail faraway from her ear after a day engaged on the hill. They’ve a number of tomato crops, however they get eggs and most of their greens from their closest neighbor simply down the hill. “Having actually good neighbors is necessary,” says O’Brien.
Spring is very stunning right here, when the hills are an intense inexperienced that reminds the couple of Eire, and lupines and different wildflowers are throughout. There’s water within the creeks and balmy temperatures—not the extraordinary warmth of the summer season, however heat breezes that carry a freshness and sense of development. O’Brien, who additionally has a level in divinity, says the depth of springtime has reminded her of the necessity to embrace which means within the on a regular basis. “Like so many issues, you realize that it’s not going to final ceaselessly, so that you recognize it extra,” she explains.
“After I grew up within the Midwest, I believed I might by no means reside with out winter sports activities and with out snow,” says Hartman. “However this place has such distinct, seasonal adjustments, although they’re extra delicate. With the wildflowers, you see some locations which might be simply spectacular, and different locations the place you occur to come back throughout tiny flowers—purple tidy suggestions and blue-eyed grasses—that reveal themselves within the panorama in far more delicate methods. And I feel that’s what’s so stunning about this place. It’s a lovely subtlety.”
Architects: Craig Hartman, with Jan O’Brien and Anesta Kothari
Structural Engineer: David Shook, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco / som.com
Mechanical Engineer: Paul McGrath, Meyers+, San Francisco / meyersplus.com
Civil Engineer: Cort Munselle, Munselle Civil Engineering, Healdsburg / munsellecivil.com
Panorama Architect: Tom Chief, TLS Panorama Structure, Berkeley / tlslandarch.com
Builder: Simon Fairweather, Randy Straub, Fairweather & Associates, Santa Rosa / fairweather-assoc.com