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Soquel, CA

This is a home designed from the ground up for a teacher and ceramic artist who knew she wanted a carefully crafted, carefully designed but modest home, one adequate to her and her young son’s need for comfortable shelter, but not in excess of that need. Combined with knowledge of the owner’s chemical and allergic sensitivies obtained in our initial interviews, we devised a home that answers exactly to those needs, and does so functionally without leaving aesthetics behind.

The initial design process entailed processing of visual imagery—photographs of various local home styles, typological style books such as the invaluable Field Guide to American Houses—to arrive at a “goodness to fit” between the owner’s as-yet unarticulated feelings about aesthetic style. The built form soon emerged.

That resolved, we set out to corral that information within a plan form adhering to the virtues of the Not-So-Big House, a common sense movement made popular by author Sarah Susanka.

The resulting design evinces the best aspects of this approach, eliminating for instance unnecessary spaces as the old-fashioned living room, combining dining and family room functions into a single, vaulted Great Room to give comfortable spaciousness at an economy of actual floor space. Allowing the moneys invested to be spent on a tiny jewel box rather than spread thin on the pastiche of an overly large home, this is an approach that values smaller, more emotionally potent spaces over larger, less meaningful ones.

It is sensitivity to value systems like these which are the necessary prerequisites to the underlaying need to reduce our carbon footprint and our environmental impacts generally.

Response to the owner’s sensitivities to allergens and chemicals resulted in, for example, the total elimination of dust-harboring products from the home including carpeting, and a robust set of specifications to eliminate detractors to indoor air quality. These specs included, for example, elimination of conventional arsenically-treated wood materials, low-VOC wood materials in lieu of conventional wood sheathing, use of milk paint in lieu of conventional paints, ultra-low-emitting materials such as sealants, gypsum board, and insulation products.



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