COYOTE BUTTE RESIDENCE


This house was designed before the advent of computer drafting.  All 28 sheets were hand drawn; over half of them construction details.  It took me over a year to do the drawings.  From the retaining walls in the terraced foundation to it’s furniture quality roof, I spent much of the next two years working on the construction crew.  The design was the feature house for an issue of Fine Homebuilding Magazine and later was chosen for the “cover house” of Fine Homebuilding’s Great Houses hard cover edition on “Energy Efficient Houses”.


This craftsman style custom home is situated on a 28% grade on the western slope in a remote area of the northern California Coast Range.  The view of the sunset over distant mountains is magnificent.  The residence is for a family of 4 with an outdoor rural lifestyle.  The slope lent itself to terracing. There are 3 levels, all of which are on “ground” level. The entry and main living areas are on the middle (2nd) level.  A reflection pool with wisteria laden pergola delineate the entry.  The living room and dining room look out to the western view.  Wide overhangs (4′) and highly insulated solar glazing solved the problem of afternoon solar gain while allowing a full view wall to the west.  The kitchen is large and adjacent to the kitchen there’s a 250 sq.ft. root/ wine cellar built into the side of the hill.


The house was designed with both passive heating and cooling systems.  There’s a 2′ diameter galvanized steel “cooling tube” buried behind the root cellar retaining wall, heading north for 100′ before daylighting in a grove of trees on the north side.  The other end of the cooling tube comes into a plenum behind the fireplace.  By opening vents in the top of the plenum warm air from the house is exhausted, drawing in the cool air from the underground cooling tube.  The hotter the outdoor temperature the greater the suction drawing in the cool air.  During the winter the cooling tube is blocked off and the plenum is used to distribute warm air from behind the fireplace. Energy for the house is supplied totally off the grid from solar panel arrays and a water turbine.  The water is supplied by several large springs on the property.  Water is solar heated with a propane fired back up heater.


On the entire south side of the house is a terraced green house which provides passive solar heat to the house in the winter.  There are opening windows between the dining room/ kitchen and the greenhouse.  The terraced greenhouse is main entry from the carport/ sauna (1st) level. Top highest level of the greenhouse has a 20′ high translucent barrel vault allowing for tall tropical plants.  There’s a great interior vista in the upstairs hallway, looking into the barrel vaulted greenhouse (where the stairs go from the kitchen to the bedrooms).  The upper (3rd) level has 3 bedrooms an office and a sewing room.  The bathroom has a handmade ferrocement Jaccuzi tub looking out onto a Japanese garden.


Perhaps the most unique feature of the house is the beautiful natural woodwork.  Almost all of the visible wood in the house was milled on site from old growth redwood logs left behind by loggers decades ago.  Kao trees were shipped from Hawaii and other hardwood and softwood logs were acquired.  The owner/ builder of the house bought a mobile dimension saw and milled thousands of board feet of lumber.  At first we thought to just lightly sand  and finish the wood but after seeing the high quality it was decided to plane all the visible lumber and finish it with  many coats of spar varnish.  The ceilings are all “open beam” with the insulation sandwiched between the visible ceiling boards and the roof.  The doors and windows are all handmade from lumber milled on the site.




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