Existing home prior to construction

Front, Exterior, Render
Front, Brown Brick Siding Exterior, Render
Cutaway Illustration, Interior
Interior Inspiration

Interior inspiration

This undeveloped lot in the hills of Mill Valley is steep and down-sloping with a view of Mt. Tamalpais. We wanted to re-create an architecture that resonates with the landscape as well as refers back to the wood domestic architecture of early Mill Valley.

Aerial of Construction Site with Foundation

Only the garage can be seen from the street. The building steps down the hill to a flat bench area. Along the side elevations the massing is broken down into distinct cedar cabin elements which sit on top of a darker wood ground plane, such that the bottom level of the house appears to be a wooden rock.


Carefully placed landscape elements complement the residence and reinforce the rock as well as shield it from adjoining neighbors.

Construction Framing
Construction Framing Interior
Construction Site and Framing

The project sits on a very steep downsizing lot with great views across the Mill Valley canyons and to San Francisco. The challenge was how to meet required height and floor area regulations and still design a residence that would be easy to live in as well as one which connects to the side yard and rear yard spaces.

Rendering of Building Elevation Plan

A long exterior stair takes you down 20′ from street level. The main level has the “public” living spaces only. The living room wall is canted toward the view and there is a small BBQ patio off of the dining room. At the lower level are three bedrooms and office space with a hallway which opens side to side to bring in natural light at both ends.

Aerial View of Construction Site
Aerial View of Construction Site
Aerial View of Construction Site

Existing home prior to construction.

Existing House in Situ
Rendering of New Home

This 1200 square foot residence is designed primarily as a pool house and occasional weekend retreat. Concern about fire safety is paramount; accordingly, the walls of the house and garage are fire safe with roofs made of standing seam metal.

Construction Site
Firesafe Construction Inside Unfinished Wall
Plan, Top View, Interior Layout

Robust panel-formed concrete walls anchor the house while exterior wood trellises reach outward to shade the home. The interior layout is open and straightforward, ideal for casual country gatherings. A large outdoor enclosure connects the house to the pool and provides a cool shaded space to enjoy the dramatic views of the oak studded valley.

Plan, Side View
Building Under Construction

A large house was approved on this site previously and the three structures of this current proposal fall within the permitted footprint for the subdivision. The owners live nearby and enjoy gardening on the property with friends. Additional structures are proposed for the property: a 1500 square foot garage for agricultural vehicles, a swimming pool, and the reconstruction of a historic barn. A reworked driveway within the site plan envelope will link the structures into a cohesive property.

Top View, Rough Plan for Tree Protection and Construction Staging
Plan, Front View
Building Under Construction

This humble log cabin surrounded by towering redwood trees is one of six originally built in the floodplain next to Corte Madera del Arroyo creek. Constructed in the early 1900s, this home has been though many transformations and additions over the years, resulting in a muddled building far removed from the serene and simple shelter of its roots. The clients, artists from New York, sought a cozy relaxed winter retreat. The decision was made to eschew enlarging the home further, instead choosing to keep the existing footprint intact and to enrich and purify the existing building.

Illustration of Fireplace, Living Room, Doorway, Lighting

The first major challenge was the entry sequence leading through the front gate and to the front door. The previous approach required travelling down to the yard and then back up the front stairs. To remedy this, the grade was raised at the east side of the carport to arrive at an improved front entry deck. The building itself was unified and defined, bringing the triple gabled roofline back to its original form. The interior space was reorganized for a modern lifestyle. By positioning an open plan living area, a bisecting entry hall, and the guest bedroom under the classic pitched roof forms, and shifting the master suite to a shed roofed addition; the interior layout was streamlined and simplified.

Illustration of Dining Room, Fireplace, Living Room, Lighting

The cabin was also modernized with subtle but impactful improvements. Being sheltered under a grove of redwoods, the setting is considerably shaded. For this reason, floor length windows that transition into skylights were introduced to maximize natural light into the interior. Refined wood finishes were incorperated throughout the interior to echo the wooded landscape outside. When completed, the home will be completely refocused as a modern interpretation of its original life as an honest forest cabin.

Under Construction, Framing, Interior
  • White Japanese Plaster

    Finish: White Japanese Plaster
  • Alaskan Yellow Cedar Wall Cladding and Millwork

    Finish: Alaskan Yellow Cedar Wall Cladding and Millwork
  • Deep Toned Painted Cabinet Faces

    Finish: Deep Toned Painted Cabinet Faces
  • Charcoal Grey Soapstone Counter Top

    Finish: Charcoal Grey Soapstone Counter Top
  • Endgrain Butcher Block

    Finish: Endgrain Butcher Block
  • Gascogne Blue Limestone @ Fireplace

    Finish: Gascogne Blue Limestone @ Fireplace
  • Blackened Metal

    Finish: Blackened Metal
  • Danish White Oak Flooring

    Finish: Danish White Oak Flooring

Proposed Finishes

This wooded, Redwood canopied site has the feel and character of quintessential Mill Valley summer cottage properties. We wanted the new house to feel like a series of small wooded “cabins” running along the upper contours of the site, connected by these existing pathways. These cabins are rooted in the local vernacular, yet updated for today’s requirements and lifestyle program.

Rendering, Street View with Trees

There are three “cabins” of the main house: These cabins are connected by low profile breezeways which look out on the trees and the patios, so that you never forget where you are as you travel from cabin to cabin. These spaces in-between, with their attendant outdoor spaces, are as important as the contemporary cabins to the Mill Valley building tradition and sense of place.

Illustration, Rear View, Stairs
Illustration, Rear View, Stairs

We wanted the main entry to span between two stands of majestic redwoods and connect the entry hall visually to the upper redwoods in order to knit together the two parts of the site: the front and the rear.

Kitchen Interior Elevation (4)
Kitchen Interior Elevation (5)
Kitchen Interior Elevation (6)
Kitchen Interior Elevation (7)
Schematic Sketch, Exterior
Elevation Drawing, Exterior
Main Level, Interior
Top View, Exterior