For many, the idea of a perfect weekend retreat is sun, surf, and sand. But for one young San Francisco family with three children, the idea of hoeing, planting, and working the land had a much greater appeal. They chose a nearly 160-acre plot in the Chileno Valley—a Homestead Act land grant that was kept intact over the years—that is a mere 3 miles from downtown Petaluma, Calif. The area continues to be more actively agrarian than its famed wine country neighbors of Sonoma and Napa to the east, and it was that ranching spirit that drew the family to a retreat inspired by a barn, which is arguably the most iconic farm building of them all.
“Our office has worked with the barn typology a lot over the years, going back to Bill Turnbull’s Sea Ranch houses. That is in the firm’s DNA,” says principal Eric Haesloop, FAIA, of San Francisco–based Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, which designed the house. “There’s something about the quality of barns, they sit really well in the landscape.” Working with landscape architect Lutsko Associates, Landscape, the lush land tract was curated, removing dilapidated old structures and some trees to enhance the expansive views that run the length of the valley. The modestly sized 2,498-square-foot house was sited to take advantage of those views.
But for all of the agrarian influence on the structure, “this isn’t a barn, of course,” Haesloop says. “It’s a house. We drew on the barn but framed it in a really minimal palette. That became the organizing principle.” That palette included western red cedar walls and a corrugated metal roof, all painted white. The angles of a traditional barn structure were abstracted to allow for a large double-height central living area with a loft, and family spaces such as the kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms were placed under the lower eaves to either side, in what Haesloop terms “the saddlebags” of the house.
The interior finishes of wood, concrete, and stone maintain the minimalism, as do the furnishings, which were selected by Erin Martin Design. The aesthetic conceals a rigorous sustainability strategy: A 4-inch-thick concrete floor is inlaid with radiant heating and cooling, and the painted cedar-panelled walls are filled with closed-cell spray-in insulation. The combination of these systems created enough thermal mass to allow the house to be naturally ventilated through large windows, and to receive LEED Platinum certification. A 10-kilowatt solar array offsets the family’s energy usage, and a field of geothermal piping, buried 6 feet under the meadow to the rear of the house, provides the heat and hot water.
Behind the house, past the meadow, is an in-ground pool, complete with a pool shed, solar hot-water heater, and built-in benches that the owner fashioned from eucalyptus trees harvested from the site. (An outdoor dining table for 30 from the same wood is next on his to-do list.)
As for the family’s farming aspirations, they are starting small: A kitchen garden is the sole focus of their food production for now, but they hope to expand it to the scale of a community garden. They’ll likely not take on agro-giants any time soon, but there may yet be a Haesloop-designed roadside farmstand in the future.
Project Hupomone Ranch, Petaluma, Calif.
Architect Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, San Francisco—Eric Haesloop, FAIA, Jule Tsai, Mark Hoffman (project team)
General Contractor Sawyer Construction
Landscape Architect Lutsko Associates, Landscape
Mechanical Engineer Meline Engineering
Civil Engineer Adobe Associates
Structural Engineer MKM & Associates
Geotechnical Consultant Bauer Associates
Energy Consultant Loisos + Ubbelohde Associates
LEED Consultant Michael Heacock + Associates
Interior Design Erin Martin Design
Size 2,498 square feet (main house); 1,051 square feet (garage); 274 square feet (pool house)
Materials and Sources
Countertops Belgian Bluestone (kitchen); Carrara Marble (bath); Stainless steel (pool house kitchen)
Doors Liberty Valley Doors libertyvalleydoors.com
Exterior Siding Western red cedar, painted
Flooring Concrete radiant floor; Restoration Timber restorationtimber.com
Tile Waterworks (bath) waterworks.com
Roof AEP Span aepspan.com
Skylights and Windows Wasco Skylights wascoskylights.com; Blomberg Window Systems blombergwindowsystems.com