Two scientists bought a piece of property in Sonoma so that they could become more involved with the locavore movement. Since they were interested in olives, olive oil, beekeeping, honey and gardening, the couple set out to build the perfect retreat to facilitate their agricultural projects. Cooper Joseph Studio helped them design a stunning small residence on the 25 acre parcel that would enable them to live lightly on the land. Powered by an on-site solar system, the home is built to take advantage of the climate and the site and is surrounded by an olive orchard.
When the couple bought the property, the original home was dilapidated and there was no infrastructure, so utility lines had to be buried and brought to the home site. The new home is sited at the top of a hill overlooking the olive groves, built into the hillside to take advantage of the views. The 850 sq ft house is built in three levels, with the entrance and bedroom on the top floor, kitchen in the middle and a large living room on the bottom. Amply-sized terraces surround the home provide extra outdoor living space to supplement the very modestly sized home.
Sonoma and surrounding regions are known for dramatic weather and can experience droughts, floods, mudslides, scorching temperatures and even frosts. The home was designed and built with all of these extreme conditions in mind, so as to provide a comfortable environment in an energy efficient way. Simple and natural materials were chosen for the exterior and interior, and windows were placed to pull light inside, while minimizing solar heat gain. Views from the inside look out to the newly planted olive orchards, and the owners also keep bees for honey.
Not too far away from the house is a 930 sq ft solar field that produces 21,578 kWh/year. Elevated 10 feet off the ground, the solar system acts as a shade canopy for an agricultural work shed located underneath it. Xeriscaping around the house reduces water usage and helps prevent soil erosion. Lavender was used throughout the landscaping to provide food for the owner’s bees.
Images Courtesy of Cooper Joseph Studio