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New home makes the most of sun, views and an unusual feature of the site

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Lichen draped on the branches of mature oak trees provides cues for the layout, design and materials in this ridgeline home

New home makes the most of sun, views and an unusual feature of the site Discover this article's resources 0


There are many features of a site that might be considered when designing a home for it – its orientation to the sun and views, the slope, the position of neighbours and so on. And while this home needed to take account of all those factors, it also had an additional, more unusual influence.

Architect Neal Schwartz of Schwartz and Architecture says that from the first time he drove up the very steep road, the most impressive thing about the site was the stand of mature oak trees he found when he reached the top.

"The oaks were filled with lichen draped through all the branches," he says. "It was a really striking way to arrive – to be on this ridge in this beautiful new setting, surrounded by all these trees."

After researching the lichen, Schwartz embraced some of its characteristics in the house, which he sited along the ridge.

"The lichen has a symbiotic relationship with the oaks, and we wanted this to be a model for how the architecture operated in the landscape – a symbiotic relationship rather than one of dominance."


He also adopted the lichen's ability to find the most advantageous environmental conditions to grow in, allowing the house geometry to twist and turn to find the best position on the site.

The approach to the house has been kept deliberately subtle and unassuming.

"When you drive up, you really don't see the house until you're right by it," says Schwartz. "It's very low slung and almost demure, given its size and the landscape around it. It doesn't draw attention to itself."

In keeping with this, the residence is clad in cedar stained a translucent grey with purple undertones, a colour that complements the setting, the oak trees and the lichen.

"But when you open the front door, you're hit with this astonishing view that's framed by the house. The house helps you understand the site and its qualities by choreographing your movements so that the best qualities of the site unfold."

This ‘unfolding' results from the home's T-shaped plan, the two main arms of the T forming the living wing and the bedroom wing, with the pool sitting between them – an arrangement that separates the public from the private areas of the home.

The private bedroom wing extends along the ridge, while the public wing with kitchen, dining and living areas sits at a right angle to this, turning its back on a neighbouring property. Both wings are fully glazed on the pool side of the house, giving uninterrupted views across the landscape to mountains in the distance.

One of the more overt design references to the lichen can also be found on this side of the house – the aluminium trellis that shades the glazed walls from summer sun.

"The pattern of the trellis and the shadows that it throws were directly inspired by the lichen. And, like the lichen shadows, the trellis shadows on the house constantly change over the course of a day."

Textures and colours selected for interior materials were also inspired by the lichen. The interior palette is earthy and subdued and there's an organic texture in some of the wallpapers and the splashback tiling in the kitchen.

First published date: 30 January 2018

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Credit List

Architect Neal Schwartz, Schwartz and Architecture
Builder Eames Construction Inc
Structural engineer iAssociates
Cladding Custom milled Western Red Cedar; Hardiplank fascia
Doors and windows Western Window Systems, Kolbe, Pacific Architectural Millwork, Secco
Flooring Concrete, walnut
Lighting Q-Tran, Boca, Reggiani, Texas Fluorescents, MP LIghting, Inter-lux, WAC, Viabizzuno, Cooper Lighting Cambria, SLV
Heating Mitsubishi
Fireplace Ortal
Kitchen cabinetry Classic innovations
Countertop White Macauba Quartzite
Splashback Made Modern by Ann Sacks – a mix of Split Left, Split Right and Flat Rectangle
Sink main –
Kallista prep – Blanco
Faucets Kallista
Oven and cooktop Miele
Ventilation Custom – Abbaka
Refrigeration Miele
Dishwasher Miele
Bathroom vanity Custom VG Douglas Fir
Vanity countertop Lemarais Limestone
Basin Kohler
Bath tub Iceland Freestanding Tub from Boffi
Tub filler Kallista
Heated towel rail Amba
Bathroom accessories Kohler