House for an Artist in Alameda County, Calif. is a highly-detailed, aesthetically and technically rigorous home that showcases an efficient design and the best of green building
By Sergio Flores
Photography by David Wakely Photography ©2015
Mill Valley based Sherry Williamson Design Inc. creates understated, elegant designs perfectly paired with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. The firm delivers inviting, comfortable and very ‘green’ living quarters, with extensively researched materials. San Francisco based Andrew Mann Architecture is renowned for their meticulous attention to detail and finesse in how residential projects are built and developed. Crispness of lines and simplicity in the details are important, unifying their architectural design concepts.
A paragon example of the firms’ collaboration is the LEED platinum certified home, House for an Artist in Alameda County, Calif.
The project initially began as a gut interior remodel, with the client having an established relationship with Sherry Williamson of Sherry Williamson Design, Inc. As the client’s goals for energy-efficient building ramped up to LEED Platinum, and the building envelope came under scrutiny, Williamson expanded the team to meet the demands and Andrew Mann Architecture joined in. Precise architectural details, forms and materials needed to be fully integrated from interior to exterior to complete this transformation.
The homeowner had a few goals for this home; the first was a design that captured the delicate balance between order and casualness. Second, the artist wanted to use this home as an opportunity to explore and push the boundaries of both rigorous design and rigorous green building practices. And lastly, the artist wanted to create a home that embodied honest materials. That embodiment of honest materials, however, affects the entire building process, from materials and designs to finishes.
To deliver the vision, a collaborative group effort was needed — Williamson put together a team that included her eponymous firm, Andrew Mann Architecture, contractor McCutcheon Construction, and landscape architect Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture.
From the curb, the home is simplistically striking: few finish materials, the asymmetrical volumes, no trims or moldings of any kinds. But the lack of multiple materials or finish details is important. Together, these features evoke an organic, welcoming, and minimalist feeling. To complement the minimalism is the high performing function of the home. House of an Artist is certified LEED Platinum, a highly respectable and difficult certification to achieve.
The artist was committed to energy efficiency and sustainability, requiring materials that even the LEED Platinum certification did not cover. Again, this was a collaborative effort. Sherry Williamson Design employed a team, including Healthy Building Science and Leger Wanaselja Architecture, in order to achieve the high level of green materials and innovative green systems needed to receive the prestigious certification.
“The public is becoming more aware of the health consequences and benefits of the materials and chemical compounds in our living environment,” said Sherry Williamson, owner of Sherry Williamson Design Inc. who was in charge ofHouse for an Artist’s lighting and interior design.
The team considered every material and every option to avoid any detrimental factors that would compromise the client’s health and the home’s efficiency. LEED satisfying products on the exterior include narrow profile metal windows and doors that are thermally broken. For glazing on the different faces of the building, films were utilized to protect against UV and EMF/radio waves. Williamson and Mann did not want to sacrifice the home’s aesthetic for sustainability, though, and thus sought products that offered a similar striking look to give the home a consistent and clean appearance while all green endeavors were met.
“[The team] ventured into uncharted territory and every team member contributed and benefitted from the product research and the steep learning curve,” said Sherry Williamson, Principal of Sherry Williamson Design. “The healthful project goals pushed some of the green product manufacturers to raise their bar and to further improve their products.”
Interior surfaces of the house are just as simple, elegant and efficient. Floors, walls, and ceilings were all wood clad—in fact, all interior surfaces of the house are wood clad. Boards are aligned at the corners of the walls and ceilings, and because no base or crown moldings were used, a fine corner detail using a quarter-inch reveal gave the home expansion and contraction when juxtaposed with the used materials. The reveal serves as both a technical solution and aesthetic decision, with the end grain of the wood always visible.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience to contribute to a home that not only achieved LEED Platinum status, but created as healthy a living environment as possible along with a very high expectation for design and detail,” said Mann. “The project became an opportunity for all involved to explore how far we could pursue the category of healthy home and integrate that into the client’s aesthetic vision.”
Compelling features include the quality of light that plays on the oak surfaces and interior volumes developed by Williamson. Andrew Mann’s favorite part of the home is its focal point where all the home’s materials come together – the entry hall. The cantilevered steel staircase was designed specifically for the home, integrating all of the major interior materials and details in one place. The staircase is accentuated with the light from the clerestory windows up high, bringing the blackened steel used in the structural trusses down to a level where it can be touched.
With fierce dedication to product and material research to fulfill the client’s wish for a sustainable home, and meticulous attention to fine detail, the aesthetic goals were achieved. “The result is a highly detailed, aesthetically and technically rigorous house that was developed through a very thoughtful collaborative working relationship between the client, the members of design and the construction teams,” concludes Andrew Mann.
Sergio Flores is an Assistant Editor for Green Home Builder magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.