En­vi­ron­ment for a dip that gives you lift

San Francisco Chronicle - - GREEN SCENE - By Zahid Sar­dar

At once mon­u­men­tal and airy, this sculp­tural, two-story pool house in Sonoma’s Wine Coun­try by Oak­land in­te­rior de­signer Michelle Wempe and her award-win­ning firm Zu­maooh is an ex­er­cise in green build­ing and com­muning with na­ture.

The pool house, set in a 13-acre creek­side meadow sur­rounded by woods, was built two years ago for a cou­ple with three chil­dren who re­cently moved to Geneva. They shut­tle now be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and Switzer­land, where he is a fi­nancier and she a nov­el­ist.

“This project orig­i­nally started out as a ren­o­va­tion of an ex­ist­ing ranch house and shed, both of which still stand on the prop­erty,” Wempe said.

In­stead, they de­signed a large new res­i­dence, garage and a few aux­il­iary build­ings for the prop­erty.

The pool house, the only new struc­ture built, quickly be­came the own­ers’ wellused, flex­i­ble re­treat to en­ter­tain a few or many of their friends at once. “It also gave them the right amount of space to spend more leisure

“Each el­e­ment … was cho­sen to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing within nat­u­ral sur­round­ings.”

time with the chil­dren,” Wempe said.

The 2,000-square-foot struc­ture and large pool are laid out in a T plan. The build­ing, com­posed of ad­join­ing stucco and cedar-clad boxes, in­cor­po­rates nat­u­ral cross ven­ti­la­tion: Its cen­tral liv­ing space (on the same north-south axis as the pool) has wall-size glass doors that pocket back, mak­ing the room an open breeze­way with views of the pool and the meadow sur­round­ing the house.

Some­times, when the own­ers need to work, they dis­ap­pear to small but airy of­fices up­stairs. Even the stair­well bay con­nect­ing the two floors has a two-story win­dow to let in west light and views that con­trib­ute to “a sense of open­ness and con­nec­tion to the land,” Wempe says.

The build­ing’s flex­i­bil­ity al­lowed the own­ers to re­think the scale of the fu­ture main house. “They’ve dis­cov­ered that they can ac­tu­ally live in a more com­pact en­vi­ron­ment than they orig­i­nally thought,” Wempe says.

“Less is more” may be Mod­ernism’s great­est ax­iom, but it’s also the new green trend.

More con­ven­tional ideas of sav­ing en­ergy also abound. Am­ple in­su­la­tion con­serves en­ergy at all times, and Cae­sars­tone coun­ters made of re­cy­cled quartz ag­gre­gate are prom­i­nent green com­po­nents.

On the east side of the build­ing, a gal­va­nized steel trel­lis shades an out­door kitchen and din­ing area and adds a sense of ex­pan­sive­ness to the build­ing.

“It gets re­ally hot dur­ing the sum­mer and the sun is so, so bright. We were so glad that all the thought and en­gi­neer­ing of our shade de­vice out­side ac­tu­ally worked,” Wempe said. Project ar­chi­tect Mark Szu­mowski helped to de­sign it. The cus­tom gal­va­nized steel trel­lis has “lou­vers an­gled to keep the sun off of the pa­tio all day. You can see the sky through it but don’t get scorched by the sun,” Wempe says.

The build­ing’s flat roof de­flects heat even as it forms the per­fect ground for a so­lar panel ar­ray that pro­vides the en­ergy to heat the pool and for lights and air con­di­tion­ing in the build­ing.

Dur­ing the win­ter, when it is not rain­ing, the sun’s low rays en­ter the shaded pa­tio and the am­ply glazed build­ing to nat­u­rally warm con­crete floors in­side and out.

“Each el­e­ment — from the ex­te­rior wood sid­ing and fire­place stone to the FSC (For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil)-cer­ti­fied oak in­side — was cho­sen to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing within nat­u­ral sur­round­ings,” Wempe says. In­deed, the pool house is the own­ers’ “liv­ing art tableau,” and an aper­ture through which they can view the chang­ing sea­sons.

The great room has wall-size glass doors that can be slid into re­cesses, mak­ing the room airy and open to views of the pool and meadow.

Pho­tog­ra­phy by David Wakely

Above: The pool house’s flex­i­bil­ity has al­lowed the own­ers to do more with less and re­think the scale of the fu­ture main house. Right: The pa­tio with din­ing and sit­ting ar­eas is cov­ered by a cus­tom gal­va­nized steel trel­lis with lou­vers to block the sun.

The pa­tio area with a kitchen and din­ing area of­fers flex­i­bil­ity to en­ter­tain a few or many friends at once in an open air set­ting.

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