(Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz)

House Tour: Step Inside This Dazzling Box on a Rock in Sonoma County

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Recalling the challenges of building a new modern home on a hilltop overlooking California's Sonoma Valley, architect Neal Schwartz was reminded how he would often tell his design team, "Come on, people! It's just a box on a rock."

He says that what he meant to convey by these words of encouragement was that the house should look like a strong and simple box on a hill, even though it's really a complex design.



House at a Glance

Who lives here: A San Francisco couple, who use it as a vacation home

Location: Sonoma

Size: 2,000 square feet (186 square meters)

Architect: Neal Schwartz of Schwartz and Architecture


Architect Neal Schwartz says that the house actually sits on two conceptual "rocks" — a big barren hill and a foundation secured with pier footings. He and his team started with a square design for the house, then began pushing and pulling at that shape for sun, shade and view orientations.

The house, clad in lightly stained cedar, has two wings around a central, enclosed courtyard. "The two wings angle a bit to maximize the views," Schwartz says. "Then we carved out the courtyard from the middle of the box to make the entryway, allowing you to enter through the courtyard and see the dramatic view from the get-go."

(Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz)

An aerial shot of house shows that the boxy roofline actually has five sides instead of four. The central courtyard basks in sunlight nearly all day long.

The courtyard can be accessed on all sides: from the living room, kitchen, master suite and front yard.

Glass walls on both sides of the living room allow for stunning views and tons of natural light. The minimalist decor, featuring white walls without any art, lets the lush natural surroundings demand all the attention.

This article was written by Camille LeFevre for Houzz.

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