Farm-to-table communities are hot right now, but Flora Farms--winner of the 2016 Gold Nugget Home of the Year Award--is the real deal. Developer Patrick Greene has owned the farm for 18 years and, after running a successful development business that took him and his family as far as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Greenes have returned home, turning their family farm into a retreat with vacation cottages, a restaurant, and a slower pace of life.
Greene’s wife had operated a successful restaurant in town in prior years, using produce grown on Flora Farm, and, despite closing to make time for other business interests, the restaurant maintained a loyal following. After the initial concept for the vacation community arose in 2008, they reopened the restaurant, along with some additional retail, at the front of the farm property. They have been adding near-identical cottages one by one, with a streamlined fabrication process that has whittled construction time down to four and a half months. The cottages, of which nine of a planned 10 have been completed, are deeded fractionally, which, Greene says, “is a better model than people owning a vacation home that they stay in 20% of the time.”
For the design of the cottages, Greene turned to his brother-in-law Chris Dorman, an architect in Mill Valley, Calif. Working with his firm, Dorman Associates, his goal was to create structures that connect to the farming operation and exemplify this farm-to-table way of life.
Each cottage sits at the end of a row of crops on the farm to create “a comprehensive living experience,” Greene says. “People are coming to the farm for a restaurant, and having the experience of living on the farm is an extension of that.” Dorman notes that the project’s intention “was to bring the farms up to the cottages. The key to experiential architecture is to bring the experience to the building.”
But what that intentional siting didn’t leave was a lot of space. The cottages needed to be long and narrow, and merging contemporary concepts like the great room with more traditional detailing allowed for wide open plans that fit the old-world aesthetic Greene was after. “We never wanted an American version of kitsch,” he says. “We wanted these to look like they had been here for a long time.”
The largely temperate climate allowed Dorman to move a significant percentage of the floor plan to a shaded veranda that hugs the cottage on two sides. Large-span double doors, clerestory windows, and a long run of glazing in the bedroom and bath help to reinforce connections to the outside.
Working with different building codes and custom-made materials manufactured on site allowed more freedom to use what Dorman refers to as some of the “oldest tricks in the book” for connecting spaces, such as continuing the same run of precast concrete flooring pavers inside and out onto the veranda to create an indoor/outdoor experience despite the largely solid walls.
The cottages are very much of the place and for the place, and cater to the fact that, as Greene says, “peoples’ sensibilities have arrived at what it meant to live on a farm.”