A Sonoma Valley getaway house that is a reinterpretation of the old Spanish haciendas of California’s Mission era captured high honors in October at the biennial awards of the Redwood Empire chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Built as a retreat for Raj and Krutika Patel and their two kids, the sustainably designed home mixes old style features like an open courtyard with modern details that blur the divisions between the indoors and the outdoors — the white-walled interior and the greenery outside.
Designed by Butler Armsden Architects of San Francisco, the Glen Ellen home was one of three residential projects singled out for awards among some 33 submissions for the contest, which honors outstanding architectural projects either built on the North Coast or designed by architectural firms based on the North Coast.
The contenders represented a broad spectrum of design, from commercial developments and government buildings to schools, wineries and historical rehabilitation projects.
The top Honor Awards went to Architectural Resources Group of San Francisco for restoration of the historic Stone Cellar at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. The firm has done many prominent restoration projects, including Cavallo Point, the inn near The Golden Gate Bridge; The Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards; Coit Tower; the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park; and the Ahwahnee Hotel, now renamed The Majestic, in Yosemite National Park.
Also singled out for an Honor Award was Jensen Architects of San Francisco for its design of the glass walled SHED in Healdsburg, a reinterpretation of the old-fashioned grange hall.
The Glen Ellen home was the only residential project to receive a second-tier Merit Award, joining the College of Marin’s new Academic Center by TLCD Architecture + Mark Cavagnero Associates of Santa Rosa, and an historic rehabilitation of the old brick studio building at San Mateo High School done by Quattrocchi Kwok of Santa Rosa.
Glenda Flaim, the lead architect on the winning Glen Ellen home, said the project was blessed and challenged by the land. While it sits on a 37-acre parcel, 34 acres are protected by The Sonoma Land Trust.
“Even though it’s a very large parcel, only a small part of the lot could be considered,” she said. The forested acreage is set deep down an unpaved road on the eastern side of Highway 12, at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains that divide the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
Main design element
The land really was the main design element they were working with, Flaim said.
“We really wanted to preserve as many trees as possible, especially the wonderful oaks. We wanted to make sure to capitalize on the context and the nature that is so beautiful and such a presence, so even when you’re inside, you feel embraced by the trees.”
Architects also oriented the house so it is shaded by trees during the summer but not in winter. A large overhang near the pool acts as a breezeway and offers another shady refuge from the hot sun that beats down on Glen Ellen in the summer.
The Patels, whose primary home is in San Francisco, have kids aged 11 and 13 who frequently bring friends with them. They also have other family members who come for extended says, so the house needed to be spacious, versatile and flexible.