Fernau & Hartman Architects recently completed this custom Northern California home. Offering stunning views and opportunities for outdoor living, the house engages its site while responding to the lifestyle of an active family.
Located in an oak woodland just beyond the manicured sprawl of suburbia, the Piper House stretches out snake-like along the contours of the East Bay Hills of Northern California. As the house weaves between the trees of the north-facing slope, it finds patches of sun and catches stunning distant views. The dominating presence of Mt. Diablo rises to the east while a dense forest of pigmy oaks runs uphill to the south. Summers here are hot and winters are mild, allowing for outdoor living much of the year.
A robust family of five with roots in South Africa, the clients were accustomed to outdoor living and wanted a house that facilitates dining and lounging outside. Moving freely between the indoors and outdoors, they see their home as a base camp and cook nearly as often on the outside grill as they do on the kitchen range. Feeling connected to the site was also a high priority. Despite needing to be large enough to accommodate the family, the relatively exposed nature of the site suggested to us an alternatively quiet and recessive house.
The combination of these desires led quickly to a linear plan that hugs closely to the contours of the site and carves along its length a continuous outdoor room. The thin section facilitates daylighting, solar gain, and natural ventilation. The house wraps around the slope under a single roof with deep eaves that create shelter, dip for sun protection, and rise for views. This undulating shed forms a southern, uphill courtyard that is the primary living space onto which all major interior spaces open. The family, like sandpipers at the edge of surf, constantly move in and out, sitting, eating, cooking, showering, and sleeping, depending on the time of day and the time of year.