In north California's Nicasio region, on a grassy plot of land enclosed by wild trees and winding hills, sits a family residence designed by San Francisco-based architects Schwartz and Architecture.
The home, quirkily dubbed the Crook Cup Bow Twist House (a reference to types of wood deformation), was largely designed as a response to the natural landscape around it. The firm's founder, Neal Schwartz, took cues from the wildness of the site, engaging with the land's natural formations and incorporating them into the house's orientation and organisation.
The client's desire was for a second home that would act as an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The brief outlined a retreat that would offer quiet solitude, where the children could enjoy nature and use the house as a 'base camp for exploration'.
Originally, the site featured an overgrowth of wild vegetation; it was covered in invasive Eucalyptus trees that had run rampant and left no room for planning. Thus, the team's initial intention was to cut them down entirely in order to free up and tame the area. Schwartz turned the issue on its head, however, and decided to use the trees as his 'inspiration for the aesthetics of the design' and what was once the problem became the solution.
The floor plan was arranged within two distinct, long and narrow volumes that follow the land's contours and are linked by an outdoor pool area. Inside, the house features five bedrooms and generous open plan living and dining areas that lead out onto a decked terrace.
Embracing the site's original flora, Eucalyptus tree wood was used for the construction of the house's key external feature: the southwest-facing solar screen. The result is an impressive element that protects from the sun and at the same time pays homage to the role the site's natural elements had in the design. The striated wood cleverly personifies the area's character, while it crooks, cups, bows and twists, evolving over time as the timber ages.