TERRACED HILLSIDE HOME 1


This 2,200 sq. ft., 5 bedroom residence rests on a north-facing hillside on 40 acres in Northern Western California.  It was designed for a family of  7:  a couple with 5 children.  The clients had already leveled a building a site on a nearby hillside but I rejected that site because it appeared unstable.  Sure enough, a large section of that hillside slid down the hill the first winter after the catwork was done.  I much prefer design building before any grading is done.

Even though the access was problematic.  We chose the north facing hillside site because of it’s stability.  I worked off an accurate topographic map of the site and designed the house with 3 hillside terraces, each 5’ difference in elevation and slightly offset.

The steep driveway approach comes from down the hill so the living area: entrance, kitchen and dining area are on the 1st (lowest) level.  The 2nd level contains the master bedroom, study and bathing area.  For ecological reasons the clients wanted a “compost privy” – which is accessible on the mid level terrace.

On the 3rd there are two children’s bedrooms and two stairways to two more bedrooms which are tucked into the steep pitched attic spaces in the center of the 4th level and 5th levels.  The upper two bedrooms have Velux roof windows and large custom-built octagon windows.

The roofs over the three levels were carefully calculated (7.5”/Ft.) so that they would provide the correct wall heights and intersect to make one plane on the west side.  The horizontal offset of the terraces, their relative elevations and the pitch of the roof all interact to create to unify what otherwise might be a rather complicated looking structure.

There is a stairway climbing up the center of the building connecting the various levels.  The 3 main levels are all at “ground level,” providing access to the extensive gardens surrounding the house.

Construction was fairly simple: three long 6 ft. tall retaining walls ran through the house and beyond at the back of each terrace.  The retaining walls were designed to be built using “unskilled labor” (the whole family wanted to work on the construction).  Concrete blocks were “dry-stacked” and covered with Surewall surface bonding mix.  The floors are supported by ledgers on the fronts of the of the adjacent walls.

All the doors and windows in the house are custom designed and built; mostly from old growth redwood.  The finished siding, the exposed ceiling and double roof supports on either side of the ridge on the 1st level were all milled on site from old growth redwood logs that had been cut and left in creek beds by wasteful loggers 30 earlier.

The house is totally “off the grid,” utilizing both photovoltaic and hydroelectric generation.

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