Aptly named Big Barn house, the project is located in Glen Ellen, a town in Sonoma Valley, in California’s wine country that is named after a winery established there in the 1860s. Located about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, the area has rolling hills dotted with oak trees and agricultural buildings. The clients hired Faulkner Architects to design a family getaway that would enable them to unplug from their urban lifestyle. The goal was to create a weekend home that embraced the region’s undulating terrain and local architecture while making sure to avoid gimmicks and in-authenticity.
The strong agricultural history has affected the built environment here, with many examples of barn-like houses that are confusingly morphed between the two vocabularies. Faulkner Architects has already completed one project on the client’s property — the conversion of a tack barn into a minimal bunkhouse, which the owner’s stayed in while making plans for a larger abode. The simple building is clad in weathering steel and reclaimed wood.
The bunkhouse influenced the design for the main dwelling, whose exterior walls are wrapped in salvaged redwood and corrugated Corten steel. An asymmetrical gabled roof gives the building a distinctive look, and a lack of overhangs is intended to emphasise the home’s crisp form. A chimney is set off from the facade and runs up one side of the residence. Nudged into a gentle slope, the home was built with the aim to minimise disturbance to the site.
In order to leave the hillside intact and avoid grading, the form is excavated into the site uphill and cantilevered over it downhill. The path of the sun influenced certain design decisions. To help reduce heat gain, the smaller side of the off-centre roof is on the west, where the sun is most intense. This elevation also has limited windows.
The east side of Big Barn house is more transparent. Sash windows and glazed, sliding doors usher in daylight and provide a strong connection to the landscape. The upper storey holds a master suite and two bedrooms. A steel-grated bridge on the north connects this sleeping level to the hillside. The lower floor encompasses a kitchen, dining area, living room and guest bedrooms.