A Landscape for Living
This architecturally stunning hillside house in Kentfield, California, by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects is a study in what I would call “dynamic opposition.” It occupies a narrow bench on a steep oak-studded slope with spectacular views south and west toward Mount Tamalpais and San Francisco Bay and feels both
suspended and anchored to the site. It also makes deft use of concrete, glass, salvaged wood, recycled stone and planted roofs to further celebrate nature. As you can see in the floor plan, the house wraps around three sides of a long,
narrow pool courtyard. The curving lines represent the retaining wall and stairway — cleverly expressing the site’s contours as a physical part of the design. Driveway, entry and garage are at the far right; the living room and kitchen/dining area edge the long side of the courtyard; and the master suite hugs the retaining wall at bottom left. In the view below, looking toward the entry, you can see how stair and wall stabilize the hill and anchor the house
while giving the main living spaces breathing room. The courtyard stones are pavers recycled from a village in China that was slated to be submerged for the Three Gorges Dam. A flat living roof covers most of the house like an extension of the hillside, and it’s punctuated by shed roofs rising over the living room, kitchen/dining area and master bedroom. These are angled to capture the views, promote airflow and hold photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Arrival is around a blind curve at the end of the road. Ahead is a blank entry
facade beside the curving retaining wall, which continues behind the garage and into the pool courtyard. The hill falls away to the right. The surprise is inside:
The soaring living room reaches outward to frame the view of Mount Tamalpais and inward to embrace the pool courtyard across the glassed-in gallery. It’s a remarkable room because it frames such different views while at the same time drawing your gaze down the hall toward the kitchen and out the sliding door to the deck. The cinnamon-hued walls and floor are elm from salvaged tree trunks. The deck runs all the way from the living room to the kitchen, where
window walls slide away to open the space to the mountain vista. Again there is a dramatic opposition: the airy void across the balcony juxtaposed against the solidity of the kitchen island surfaced in stone. In the breakfast area the view of
Mount Tamalpais is framed by the window wall and acquires the majesty of Mount Fuji in a Japanese woodblock print. You are at once grounded and in flight, and the house becomes a landscape lens. The master suite is behind the
breakfast area and includes a marvelous skylit and translucent-walled shower that restates the theme of opposites: a sunlit retreat where there is no view. A sophisticated water management system protects the slope by collecting excess runoff in a cistern under the garage for measured dispersal over time.
This distant view shows how the house tucks into the treetops — like a wildlife viewing station in Africa — which seems fitting because the owner, who took this shot, is a fine nature photographer (by Wanderingeye.net).
The great Bauhaus painter Paul Klee once said that “art does not reproduce the visible, rather it makes visible.” This house simply and elegantly brings the setting into sharper focus and makes it habitable: nature nurtured.
Interior design by Margaret Turnbull.
All photos by David Wakely, unless otherwise noted.
(This article was written for Houzz.com)
To read more about modern houses click here.