Architects: Nonzero Architecture
Location: Brentwood, California, United States
Design Team: Peter Grueneisen, Gary Georges, Perkin Mak, Marc Jones, Gregg Oelker, Jonathan Brown
Structural Engineer: Paul Franceschi
Civil Engineer: Steve Siegrist
Interior Design: Laurie March
General Contractor: Greeniron Constructs
Area: 4,200 sq ft
Photographs: Juergen Nogai
Having lived in the historic Brentwood neighborhood for a decade and well aware of its unique quality, the owners had planned to expand their 1950’s house. Demolishing the unremarkable structure and building from ground up ultimately turned out to be the better solution. The resulting 4,200 square foot residence was completed in September 2011.
Inspired by strict regulations demanding a mid-century ideal of humane modernism and appreciative of its values, the design is a contemporary interpretation and celebration of its inherent qualities, with an added strong focus on sustainability.
A steep down-slope site above a wooded canyon required a low profile from the street and the careful positioning of the volumes to preserve views, while making the comparably large home appear modestly scaled in keeping with the neighborhood.
The massing concept consists of a simple large open glass volume for the shared living spaces, wrapped around three-dimensionally by a solid band of smaller rooms that also maintain the owner’s privacy from the street. Closely integrated into the historic surroundings, the house features a typical transparent clerestory above the opaque walls and a floating flat roof with exposed steel beams.
The desired inside-outside relationships, openness and attention to craft and detailing were achieved with a glazed steel post-and-beam structure. The concrete retaining walls are left exposed where possible and contrast with the steel and the sustainably harvested tropical hardwood siding.
Photovoltaic glass panels power the house and offer a serene dappled light on the terrace while, along with deep roof overhangs, they help shade it. Natural ventilation is facilitated and encouraged through the placement of operable windows and folding glass walls, opening to the large deck, along the path of the prevailing breezes.
Throughout the house, views of the canyon, the trees and the distant ocean and shoreline are carefully framed for maximum enjoyment as well as privacy. Spaces are extended outward and the surrounding landscape is continually incorporated into the design. The entry sequence leads through the solid perimeter band of rooms, through a glazed door sheltered by a skylight, into the large space, which finally opens up dramatically after one passes behind the freestanding kitchen volume.
Built-in mahogany cabinets and shelves, including a fully rotating shelf wall separating a study and offering a choice between bookshelves and a TV, help to keep the tall space open and uncluttered.
Roof beams from the old house were repurposed as steps and benches throughout and complement the largely drought-resistant landscaping.