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Steep Slope and Solar Orientation determine Shape of House

The Crook – Cup – Bow – Twist home, located in Nicasio, California, USA received its name for three distinct reasons. First and foremost the sequence of words refer to the various categories of lumber deformations as seen in the outside louvers installed horizontally on the home for both privacy and sun protection. The louvers are made of multiple rows of misshapen wood slats that create geometric and yet random patterns. The second reason the Crook – Cup – Bow – Twist home received its name was for the way the home itself twists to follow the lay of land as it takes advantage of the sun’s position for solar collection. The third reason for the home’s name is the latent potential energy of all the natural systems towards movement that Schwartz and Architecture where able to take advantage of through the design process. A young family located in the city purchased the site as a quiet weekend and vacation retreat where they could get back in touch with nature and the brief for Schwartz and Architecture was to create a home for them that they could use as a city antidote and a base camp for exploration.

The location of the home is midway on the slope where the land rises on two sides and falls on the other two. When the sun is at its strongest, it faces towards the hillside and these two features determined the orientation of the home
After determining the best possible orientation, the architects continued to analyze the site to create the best ebb and flow of routes and zones the family would use within the various slopes of the existing landscape. The negotiation of natural and architectural as well as solar determined the final footprint and shape for the home.

The long and linear plan determined a layout with the private zones on one end and the social zones on the other. The main entrance is centrally located and lines up perfectly with the backdoor which leads out to the families terrace. Because of the landscape, the ground continues to drop away from the home at the point of the entry so the home is accessed via a bridge.
The bridge is constructed with wood and steel that has been left untreated, allowing the elements to age and weather naturally, allowing it to blend harmoniously with the native grasses that surround it.
A fence on the left of the access bridge provides privacy for those using the outdoor swimming pool.
A concrete walkway on the outside of the fence leads people around the perimeter of the pool and home to the backyard while a short concrete staircase off of the home’s kitchen and bathroom lead to the pool itself. The glow of thin linear light strips on the home’s facade are in fact slits that allows natural light into the bathroom within.

The drought resistant grasses combined with the twisted and turned wood used in the window louvers create a soft organic foil to the otherwise hard geometric lines of the home.
The use of repeating elements is a strong design detail used through the home both on its exterior and interior zones. The unique choices of rusted steel on the bridge, twisted wood louvers on the windows and rigid window slits in the concrete wall are three of the most intriguing design details on the homes facade and all three are clearly visible from the entry.

Rusted steel is also used in the rain chains and roof fascias.
Once inside the home, the foyer represents the center or Knot of the home. From here, the private zones radiate out towards the right, the back deck is straight ahead, the living room is directly forward and to the right while the dining room is directly forward and to the left while the kitchen, bathroom and pool are all to the left.

The foyer has incorporated into it’s wall, a thin, tall matte black void fitted with hooks, shelves and a few prized mementos.
The foyer hallway leads to doors at either end. One to the pool on the left and one to the outdoors on the right and because of the lay of the land the private zones on the right are a few steps higher then the social area to the left.

Just before the private zone begins, a series of windows in the hall create views to the landscape in the back and a pair of horse sculptures appear to be enjoying the view.
The bedrooms are all accessed by the hall as is the outdoor hillside itself.

Since the land rises both to the back and to the right side of the home, the side exit is below grade.
Each of the bedrooms in the private wing overlooks the rising landscape to the back through walls of glazings that present the perfect place to view nature when nature is at its best – dawn and dusk.

The bathroom in the private wing is less exposed, preferring to showcase nature through tall but narrow windows.
The private and social volumes are separated by the back deck access and it is just past this junction that the Crook – Cup – Bow – Twist home takes a twist of its own.
The angled private zone meets up with the thinnest portion of the home where the two horse sculptures hang out and just past this void is the living room. The living room is tucked into an interior alcove just to the right of the foyer to back deck traffic pattern.
A custom fireplace screen cleverly mimics the patterns created by the window louvers and a chair comprised of bent wood strips also appears to repeat the pattern, although the chair pattern is not random.
The passage way from the foyer to the back deck divides the living area from the dining room as well as the kitchen. The interior wall that connects the three zones ramps up the wood elements used throughout the home, showcasing the craftsmanship of the cabinetmaker that custom fitted all the joinery.

The dining room is directly behind the stove within the kitchen and the architects clad the back of the cabinets with a matte black finish that allows the beautiful living edge slab used as the dining table top to stand out. Connecting the matte black wall with the rest of the space are the black dining chairs.
Across from the dining table within the wall of custom cabinetry is a buffet area that features closed storage below a countertop and open shelving above. The open shelving is the perfect place to feature prized pottery and glassware.

The kitchen runs along the sidewall of the home ending at doors that open to the outdoor pool and while the stove overlooks the dining room, across from it the sink overlooks the landscape.

The kitchen doors that lead to the pool open to a small porch with doors leading into the front hall and from there, a bathroom is easily accessed. The bathroom overlooks the pool but maintains its privacy by the pencil thin window voids within the concrete wall.

From the outside, the bathroom window slits create a unique and exciting design elements visible both from the pool and the entryway.
Aside from the main home, the architects also built a guest home a hop and a skip away.
The floor plan within the guesthouse revolves around a central core that houses the fireplace and bathroom. Here the sleeping area is on the private side, away from the bridge and pool while the kitchen separates it from the more exposed dining and living areas.
Schwartz and Architecture
Hammond Fine Homes Contracting
Photography by Bruce Damonte


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