THIS NEW HOUSE IN SAUSALITO MIGHT BE CALLED “GREENE & GREEN”: IT’S A CALIFORNIA ARTS & CRAFTS REVIVAL DESIGN INCORPORATING THE PRACTICES OF SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE AND UNIVERSAL DESIGN.
ASIAN DESIGN ELEMENTS TIE INTO AN ARTS & CRAFTS AESTHETIC. THE WOOD-FRAMED GREAT ROOM IS A FLOATING PAVILION WITH A STONE BASE.
T he couple’s early 20th-century house in Sausalito came with an empty lot in the rear, which they recognized as the ideal spot to build their retirement home. Amy Tan, a well-known novelist, and her husband, Lou DeMattei, a tax lawyer, worked with Michael Matsuura of Michael Rex Architects to imagine a light-filled retreat. All of them were inspired by Arts & Crafts-era California architects Greene & Greene, who designed Asian-inflected homes in harmony with nature. This lot has a sylvan setting, with century-old live oaks and spectacular views of Richardson Bay.
The house would incorporate the accessibility concepts of universal (or inclusive) design to make later years easier to navigate. Clients and architect also championed sustainability for the construction and maintenance of the new house, which is built with recycled and “green” materials including bamboo. The roof is overplanted with drought-tolerant succulents. A “live roof” is naturally fire-resistant, reduces noise, and prevents runoff—and it creates a more attractive view from higher ground.
The site was steep and small, so construction began with excavation to keep the building height low, which avoided impact on neighbors’ views and satisfied strict local ordinances. Main living spaces—living and dining areas, the kitchen— would be on the highest level to take advantage of the views and light. Bedrooms and offices would occupy the middle level, overlooking the bay, while the garage and storage spaces would be on the lowest level.
The overall design marries Asian elements to an Arts & Crafts aesthetic. The wood-framed great room is a pavilion floating above an organic stone base. Exterior columns of Western red cedar have a soft, elegant taper.
A great room was designed as the center of the house, with wide bands of glass allowing views of the bay to the east, a live-oak canopy to the north, and an intimate garden patio to the south. Lowering the ceiling on either side created alcoves for music and dining; the large space thus gained comfortable
An open, pavilion-like great room with walls of glass suggests Japanese architecture. The library hall’s bookcases feature softly rounded, removable railings that secure books in case of earthquake (left). Bamboo reeding between ceiling beams adds warmth and acoustical insulation; the ceiling lights have handmade Japanese paper shades by Sue Johnson (above). 7KH ƬUHSODFH VXUURXQG RI matte-glazed tile features relief tiles depicting a KHURQ ƬVKLQJ LQ D PDUVK (Handmade tiles are by Pratt & Larson.)
ABOVE The entry gate hints at the AsianLQƮXHQFHG $UWV &UDIWV UHYLYDO KRXVH LQVLGH OPPOSITE 7KH ƬUHSODFH FHQWHUV WKH ZHVW HQG of the great room where bronze sculptures IURP p&DWoV LQ WKH &UDGOHq E\ 'DUOLV /DPE VLW on the mantel. The front entry is just beyond.
ABOVE A stone foundation supports two upper levels constructed of clear Western red cedar. RIGHT Amy Tan and her husband, Lou DeMattei, enjoy the terrace with Bobo and Tux.
The great room is enclosed by windows and glass folding doors patterned after oriental screens. Views come inside; simple furnishings casually accommodate guests, and the dogs.
The writer’s office is hidden behind f’lding, translucent Chinese screens; when they all are closed, their carvings are a Chinese poem. The ’wner had the elm-wood screens carved in Shanghai.