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High-tech home in the hills

  • The bath in Barbara Buck's deep green energy efficient Cazadero dream home is in a glass atrium with with nothing but a fireplace and sunken soaking tub for skywatching. The home has a complex heating, cooling, power and lighting system that can be controlled remotely or on-site. (TREVE JOHNSON)

Barbara Buck's front gate is only a mile from “town.” But considering “town” is tiny Cazadero, and that from her gate off King Ridge Road it's another mile to her second gate, and then a further trek up a service road to her house at the very top of the ridge, Buck is about as remote as you can get in Sonoma County without falling off the grid or into the Pacific.

But it was up here, in this damp-in-the-winter, hot-in-the-summer spot so close to the clouds, that Buck chose to build her dream “hunting lodge,” a fairytale of stonework and Gothic arches, wood columns and clay-plastered walls. It also boasts what has to be one of the most extraordinary bathrooms anywhere, a glass atrium with nothing but a fireplace and sunken soaking tub for skywatching.

“It's an awesome place when it's really raining,” said Buck, who has a fascination with the Gothic, not just architecturally, but literarily. She can't wait for summer to end and the dark and stormy nights to descend.

“I can see the sky and the stars and the rain through the roof,” said Buck, who grew up in New Mexico, “where storms are spectacular.”

The house proved a challenge on multiple fronts for architect Marilyn Standley and the building and engineering team from Leff Construction.

The 775-acre hilltop acreage offered exquisite views. But the remote site is subject to extended power outages and this house would be the last residence to be restored. At the same time, Buck wanted to build a house that was “deep green,” being as energy efficient as possible while also incorporating sustainable materials.

“What I thought was particularly interesting about the challenge of designing and building this house was that a luxury home, by its very definition, could not be green, just because of the size,” said Dave Leff, whose Sebastopol construction company was building “green” before there was a word for it.

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