Project Type:Single Family Home, RuralProject Location:Willits, California 95490
Awards and Acknowledgements:Architectural Record:2018 Record HousesDesign Features:Off-Site Fabrication, Reclaimed Wood, Pivoting Glass Doors, Radiant Heating, Solar Thermal Collector
Levels Above Ground:
High Horse Ranch, in Mendocino County, California, has abundant wildlifeâ€”deer, bobcats, chorus frogs, juncos, and moreâ€”but nothing equine. Echoing the names of such nearby places as Dead Horse Canyon, this mountainous 64-acre property playfully honors owner Clive McCarthy, who, as his wife, Tricia Bell, puts it, â€śenjoys getting on his high horse, now and then, for a good-natured rant.â€ť Itâ€™s also a nod to the landâ€™s former use: as a marijuana farm. But no longer committed to such crops, the property is now a retreat for this couple and their guestsâ€”a remote getaway designed for comfort and an intimate experience with wild terrain in dramatic surroundings.
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The pair first came here looking to create an escape from San Francisco, 150 miles to the south, where they inhabit a converted industrial warehouse. They welcomed the idea of getting above the Northern California fog, on a site that reaches an elevation of 2,300 feet. After driving up switchbacks on a gravel roadâ€”through steep, mossy terrain, amid soaring firs and craggy oaks draped in lacy lichenâ€”theyâ€™d barely entered the property when they caught an unexpected glimpse of a spectacular mountain cleft beneath them; they were smitten. As Bell, then a practicing physician, recalls, â€śRight then, we both knew we wanted to buy the place.â€ť
They considered local architects before encountering a book by Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake on Loblolly, a house fabricated off-site. â€śI loved the precision,â€ť says McCarthy, a British-born former electrical engineer turned tech executive, who now makes digitally inspired artworks. He and Bell were impressed that Loblolly had been assembled (rather than built) without even a chainsaw on-site. They too hoped to tread lightly, preserving the abundant trees on their nearly pristine land.
Soon KieranTimberlake partner James Timberlake visited the property. As he recalls, â€śIt was a once-in-a-lifetime site, and we all hit it off.â€ť Apart from Loblolly, designed by partner Stephen Kieran for his own family, and the temporary Cellophane House in a parking lot at MoMA, the firm hadnâ€™t tried other off-site residential fabrication, much less for a â€śrealâ€ť client in a challenging spot.
The couple envisioned a mountaintop house with a seemingly casual, yet orchestrated, approach. The quarter-mile ascent on their grounds would offer that teasing initial peek into the valley before
(Source: Architectural Record)