Mendocino County House

As I work, I enjoy distilling a design down to the essential pieces — often starting big and messy and then gradually, in an iterative manner, working towards the simplest design solution that, once “there,” touches an essential part of each of us.

Designed as a quiet retreat for two readers, one of whom wanted the house to feel like an outdoor porch, this 840 SF cottage inhabits a steeply sloped lot adjacent to wooded watersheds. A semi-circular concrete planter/retaining wall frames the front terrace and with a landscaped berm diverts the significant seasonal rainwater around the house into the woods below. The house is sited to preserve open views into the woods and privacy to and from the adjacent houses. The living level — a few steps above grade at the front entry — sits a full story above a storage/mechanical space at the back. Each interior space repeats a common spatial theme — an expressed single-sloped ceiling plane over largely window-filled walls. The feeling is that of being in a tree house.

Green Features  +/-

  • Small size with open, versatile plan allows for conservation of resources and reduced carbon footprint.
  • Sited and shaped to maximize daylight and natural ventilation.
  • High-performance glass used in doors and windows. Wood windows and doors with exterior aluminum cladding prevent thermal bridging, lengthen life span, and reduce maintenance requirements.
  • Low-use water fixtures throughout the house.
  • On-demand hot water heating.
  • High-efficiency (92%) direct-vent condensate furnace.
  • All lights on dimmers.
  • Western Red Cedar board-and-batten siding — locally harvested and naturally resistant to rot and decay.
  • High R-value insulation: formaldehyde-free batts.
  • Built-in recycling center.
  • Energy Star appliances.

Project Team  +/-

  • Builder: Marine View Construction (Chuck Arana), arana@mcn.net
  • Structural Engineering: Ingraham DeJesse Associates (Nellie Ingraham)
  • Photography: David Wakely

Publications and News  +/-