Envisioned as a singular continuous, flowing expression, this family estate designed by Jim Olson links architecture, interior design, art and landscape into an integrated whole. Unified around the central “home base” living area, views radiate from this core in four directions across several reflecting pools to vistas into gardens and the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. The residence includes three auxiliary buildings and extensive outdoor living areas, but the subdued sophistication of the design helps dissolve the home into its verdant site. Creating spaces between the home’s various structures helps engage the landscape, resulting in a quietly elegant family complex where life extends out of doors into the temperate California Bay Area climate.
The expansive 3.5 acre site is organized into two interconnected parts, reflecting contrasting attitudes toward the landscape. Along the entry to the property, rows of old-growth olive trees, a small vineyard and a succulent garden suggest a human touch upon the landscape. This cultivated portion of the site contains the “public” areas of the house, including the main living and dining area. Continuing this “public” space are the three auxiliary buildings, which step back along the front of the property perpendicular to the main house, echoing the organized rows of the nearby vineyard. These buildings include a two-bedroom guest house, an outdoor living pavilion, and a dining pavilion with an underground pub, reflecting the owners’ deep social connectedness and love of entertaining.
The other side of the site, delineated by an infinity pool and gentle slope, opens into uncultivated meadow space. This more “wild” half of the site contains the private areas of the home, including the master suite, office, and three children’s bedrooms. On both sides of the site, a fluidity between inside and outside defines the built environment. Retracting window walls – including a U-shaped window around the dining pavilion that lowers completely into the ground – open much of the home to nature, maximizing outdoor living possibilities and natural ventilation. Trellises weave over these spaces, providing shade from the California sun and further blending the home into the landscape.
An earthy exterior palette of patinated bronze, black granite, and dark wood inspired by the California woodland setting continues inside the home, where a collection of custom furniture and lighting designed by Jim Olson integrates with the interior environment. Olson also helped to curate an international contemporary art collection for the owners of the home, complementing its architectural expression. Designed to produce as much energy as it uses, the home incorporates several high-performance systems, including solar panels covering over half of the roof area, and geothermal and hydronic heating and cooling systems. The result is a home integrated with nature, not only philosophically and visually, but from a practical perspective as well.
“I always think of houses as something that should last for 500 years. If they have a long life, and they’re flexible enough to be used in a variety of ways, then future generations can take advantage of them for whatever their needs are. At Meadow House, we’ve done something that doesn’t have to be torn down or replaced. It can keep serving people for many years to come.” –Jim Olson, FAIA, Design Principal