Nestled in the rolling hills of California’s Sonoma Valley, this new house’s discreet, low volume sits in complete harmony with its environment. Created to take its cues from its surroundings, in a harmonious coexistence, its grey, transparent form looks and feels, at the same time, thoroughly modern.
Its architect, Neal Schwartz, likens it to lichen. ‘The precise relationship between lichen and its host provides inspiration for an architecture specifically tailored to its site - both as a response to it and as an augmentation of its best attributes’, he says. The design, for a young family, Schwartz explains, does not mimic blindly, but attempts to expand our understanding and experience of nature, through architecture.
Drawing a more literal parallel, the plot’s oak trees support actual, draping Ramalina Lichen. These, not only filter sunlight, but also capture moisture and remove pollutants from the air, making a remarkable contribution to the site. This supports a unique microclimate.
Similarly, Lichen House is conceived as a ‘porous and breathable building’, where each opening is carefully positioned to ensure the best conditions for the residents, both inside and out. The structure is orientated so that it makes the most out of the daylight and passive heating opportunities the area’s pleasant climate and geography provides.
Planned in a T-shaped arrangement, the house features a wing of generous, open plan public spaces and two wings of private areas that include five bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and ample storage and service spaces. Operable windows ensure privacy where needed, while allowing the option of letting the outdoors in. Wood detailing and floors soften the concrete and glass building’s interior.
The driveway leads up to a large garage, while a garden, wide deck and a swimming pool sit on the plot’s opposite side, offering long views of the valley, making the most of this contemporary house’s striking location.