A vineyard set in the rolling terrain of Amador County became the inspiration for the Three Leaf House. After examining many potential locations on a 30-acre property with our client, we selected an area on a knoll with the land dropping away on two sides and a never-ending view of the Sierras unfolding beyond. Not wanting the structure to “command” the knoll, but wanting the home to capture the “postcard views”, led to a series of design moves starting with the roof. We gave the roof an organic shape that grows out of the land echoing the profile of the terrain. Conceptually, the Three Leaf House maintains an orderly and rigorous module arrangement reminiscent of the surrounding vineyard’s planting, while the roofs’ curved form respects the rolling hills and reflects the organic nature of the vine itself.
Our client’s outdoor lifestyle and interest in a sustainable home were further stepping stones to the final design. Capitalizing on the surroundings and our client’s willingness to create a true indoor-outdoor California house, allowed us to break the 1,500 SF Three Leaf House into 3 distinct modules each capped with an expressive roof. The central unit houses the gathering space with kitchen, living and dining. An open airy breezeway connects this space to the more private master module with a three-season screened-in terrace. The third module is separated from the central space to allow overnight guests space in their own realm. All three structures are united by shared outdoor courtyard spaces for dining, lounging, and drinking in the idyllic views of the surrounding vineyard.From a sustainability standpoint, the overall design of the Three Leaf House was the first step in creating a green home. In our view, passive solar design is the single most important tool available to create an energy efficient green home, with technology and material selection following. We believe it is of great value to place effort and emphasis on the building form, orientation, massing and fenestration to enable the building to naturally heat and cool itself within its environment. On the Three Leaf House, careful thought was used in positioning the structures both relative to one another, the arc of the sun, the view, and the air flow on the site. The roof overhang is calibrated specifically to shade the building’s large expanses of glass from the hot summer sun, and each structure in turn shades the next. Windows were placed to maximize airflow and scoop up natural breezes on the site.
At the origin of the project, our Client wanted to include a geothermal system to improve the energy efficiency of the home. At the completion of the design phase, a geothermal expert examined the design and concluded that the house was already so efficient that the cost and resources to provide and install a geothermal unit was not necessary. Instead, the only mechanical system installed for the home is hydronic radiant flooring to warm the polished concrete slab. Recycled redwood was used to clad the breezeway walls and create large barn door sliders to divide interior spaces. The curving roofs are clad with a metal “cool” roof, and heavily insulated beneath. The combination of good passive solar design and energy efficient technologies resulted in a house that exceeds state energy requirements by over 30%.
Overall, the concept and program for this home is quite simple. It is the expressive nature of the roofs and placement of the individual structures that creates a beautifully detailed artistic solution resting lightly, like fallen leaves, on the land.
Contractor: Jim Glauz Construction
Photography: Dave Adams Photography & Sage Architecture, Inc.