HOUSE ON THE RANCH

The project consists of a radical renovation of and addition to an existing residence on a 41-acre ranch in West Marin County.  Occupying a spectacularly bucolic site, the original 19th Century farmhouse was one of the first structures built in the valley, but it was added onto at several points in the 20th Century, resulting in a chaotic floor plan.  In addition to re-configuring some interior walls, the architects integrated an addition which all together enabled the creation of a plan that worked both within the house and in forging strong connections with the outdoor spaces and stunning vistas.

The owners had specific programmatic goals for this country respite which would provide both privacy and gathering spaces for the family’s teenagers, adults, and their friends: resolve the tortuous floor plan; create strong connections to the outdoors; accentuate the charms of the original 19th Century farmhouse, while correcting the bland additions of the subsequent century; maximize views to the outdoors and natural light for the indoors; replace deteriorated and unsightly finishes; provide a courtyard garden that is both contemporary and in harmony with the 19th Century farmhouse; improve the house’s energy efficiency and thermal comfort.

When the owners acquired the property, the site – though naturally beautiful – was visually divorced from the house.  Specifically, both original house and the series of additions to it lead to a labyrinth of dark rooms with small windows that did not meet with the family's desire for natural light and views, and uplifting spaces.  The circulation was not only confusing, but non-functional, for example, one bedroom could only be accessed by going outdoors.  The chaotic floor plan was tamed and brought to a coherent logic through the strategic addition of a family room linking the disparate previous additions, and by the redesign of interior walls and bathroom.   In this way, the 4 bedrooms and 3 baths achieve privacy, connected by the family room addition whose wall of windows faces an expansive lawn back-dropped by verdant hills. The formerly dark and worn living areas are expansive and light-filled, including a spacious eat-in farm kitchen and a gabled-ceiling living room with views on three sides to the hills, a courtyard and Lavender garden, and pastures with heritage Oak, Walnut, and Willow trees lining riparian streams.  To achieve this, the kitchen was renewed with a custom designed fir table and cabinets of the same wood with color accents, while the original 19th Century wood pantry, doors and walls were retained.  But most dramatically, the living room was transformed by removing the flat ceiling to reveal the intersecting gable roof form; the previous owners' fake wood floor was replaced by grey stained ash wood, and the walls were painted a high contrasting white.  At the gable end facing east, a high triangular window centered over the existing window, provides a framed view of sheep grazing on the hills beyond.  The removal of fake muntined windows, with non-divided glass further advanced the owners' goal of connection to the numerous and varied outdoor views, including a lavender courtyard garden, pastures, hills, and riding arena. 


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