Located in a nature preserve in the Santa Lucia Mountains, the site of oak forests and steep meadows strongly impacted and inspired Feldman Architecture’s design for House Ocho. In order to reduce the impact of the home’s massing and to preserve site lines, the building settles into the ground and overhanging roofs are planted with tall native grasses. The house is also divided up into a series of pavilions to lessen its overall mass.
After passing through an entry grove, visitors can see distant views between and over the various building elements. As they are drawn into the widening view, they are led down from the tree-lined ridge to a large terrace that serves as an outdoor living room for the house. Nearly every room has wide doors that open to the land allowing the modest home to feel much more spacious.
Knowing that the home would often be used by the homeowners without their children or guests, the two guest bedrooms are pulled away from the main house. When only the owners are home, the guest wing can be shut off, electrically and thermally. External hallways further reduce the amount of thermally controlled space.
The owners’ respect for the site translated into several environmentally sensitive design decisions. To further tie the house to the land, a natural palette of wood and concrete with weathered steel accents is incorporated throughout the house. In addition to allowing the house to blend into the landscape, the green roofs allow rain water to be absorbed on-site and ensure that the house remains cool in hot summer months. A passive solar design strategy was implemented as well: large windows expose the concrete floors and retaining walls to the morning sun, thus minimizing the need for artificial heat. Skylights with integrated photovoltaic cells produce a soft filtered light while also helping to power the house. Environmentally sensitive building materials such as sustainably harvested lumber and insulation made from denim manufacturing waste were specified throughout the home. Finally, the large meadows adjacent to the house have been replanted with native grasses and wildflowers which are drought-tolerant and also provide fire resistance.