If you came upon these houses without the benefit of being invited inside, you'd never know the splendor of what lies beyond their thresholds. Whether adhering to an existing vernacular or preserving a historical context, shielding the house from street noise and prying eyes, or simply itching to entice curiosity and deliver drama upon entering, both of these houses make effective use of austere beginnings that lead to even greater endings.

Project: Pins Sur Mer, Point Arena, Calif.; Entrant/Architect: Obie G. Bowman/Architect, Healdsburg, Calif.; Builder: Helmut Emke Custom Builders, Gualala, Calif.

Project: House for 2 Architects, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Entrant/Architect: House + House, San Francisco; Builder: Guadalupe Gonzalez Morales, San Miguel de Allende

SIMPLE ELEGANCE: The rustic and modest front entry to this custom vacation home (top), featuring a metal-lined, hollowed-out redwood timber gutter over a steel front door, is the perfect setup for what lies behind it: a wide-open plan that exposes views of its wooded, high bluff location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The entry offers a glimpse of a generous porch that runs along the public side of the plan. The house earned the 2001 Project of the Year award.
SIMPLE ELEGANCE: The rustic and modest front entry to this custom vacation home (top), featuring a metal-lined, hollowed-out redwood timber gutter over a steel front door, is the perfect setup for what lies behind it: a wide-open plan that exposes views of its wooded, high bluff location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The entry offers a glimpse of a generous porch that runs along the public side of the plan. The house earned the 2001 Project of the Year award.
HISTORY LESSON: It was the element of surprise that piqued the interest of the judges about this house and earned it the 1996 Project of the Year award. Specifically, they admired the juxtaposition and preservation of the property's adobe street wall façade and simple, single-door entry, especially when they discovered what resided behind it: a 2,000-square-foot home reclaimed from an abandoned hacienda in Mexico that celebrates its rich history in terms of colors, materials, forms, and functions—most notably in the center courtyard.
HISTORY LESSON: It was the element of surprise that piqued the interest of the judges about this house and earned it the 1996 Project of the Year award. Specifically, they admired the juxtaposition and preservation of the property's adobe street wall façade and simple, single-door entry, especially when they discovered what resided behind it: a 2,000-square-foot home reclaimed from an abandoned hacienda in Mexico that celebrates its rich history in terms of colors, materials, forms, and functions—most notably in the center courtyard.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.