Buried History

Layers of ugly additions are peeled away from a master carpenter's masterpiece.

Andre Bernard

The bad thing was that the grand old Los Gatos, Calif., home was enshrouded on all four sides with horrendous additions to accommodate its most recent use as a convalescent home. The good thing was, awful as they were, they helped preserve priceless historic details. Another good thing was that its owner was willing to take the time and cash to painstakingly peel off the old layers, forensically figure out what was original, restore what remained, replace what didn’t fit in, and then build a seamless addition on the back that modernized the 100-plus-year-old home for its second century. Thrash House was built near the turn of the last century by Sarah Winchester’s head carpenter for his own family. Unlike the high-Victorian home he built for the Winchester rifle fortune heiress, Thrash House was simple for the time with unfussy lines and a few classical flourishes.

Except for the pair of palm trees that have grown considerably in 100 years, the home’s front façade now matches a photo taken at the beginning of its life. Inside, too, its original 3,000 square feet of rooms maintain their original uses. But the back of the house holds another 4,000 square feet worth of modern niceties, including an award-winning kitchen, master suite, and a family room.

Other modern improvements include spray foam insulation that eliminates drafts and cuts utility costs. Yet the home’s history was painstakingly preserved or replicated, including its original redwood siding.

Award Grand, best custom home between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet
Project Thrash House, Los Gatos, Calif.
Builder/Developer Robson Homes, San Jose, Calif.
Architect Salvatore Caruso Design Corp., Santa Clara, Calif. 
Interior designer Chelsea Court Designs, Los Gatos
Photographer Andre Bernard

An Architect's Experiment

A house on a hill shows how invisible sustainability can be.

Courtesy Frank Pasker

Architects often experiment with their own homes. “Clients don’t want to be guinea pigs, possibly stuck with something that won’t work down the road,” explains architect Frank Pasker. So Pasker employed just about every passive and active energy-efficient device he could think of when he built his own home, Nob Hill Haus, in Los Angeles’ Mount Washington, with his partner, designer Grit Leipert.

Rainwater is channeled into a 1,500-gallon cistern hidden beneath the front yard and used for irrigation. Water from showers and sinks soaks the ground beneath a nascent orchard. Photovoltaic panels power the house and send extra kilowatts back into California’s needy power grid.

Passively, the home is oriented to save energy. The roof is light colored to reflect heat and insulated with R-30 insulation. The house’s hottest side is clad with a rainscreen, leaving an air space between the siding and the house, insulating the inner wall. Wide overhangs help keep heat from the windows. And, of course, energy-saving appliances and water-sipping fixtures are de rigueur.

But all those energy-saving systems are pretty invisible inside Nob Hill Haus, where the views, stretching for miles toward the San Gabriel Mountains, give the feel of an eagle’s aerie. Perched on a hillside, the 2,400-square-foot home’s large high-performance windows can slide aside, stretching the living space out onto expansive decks.

Pasker’s experiment is a success. It uses a third the water and half the gas of an average home for heating. The electricity bill is a token amount to maintain the connection to the grid. And, says Pasker, “I still love my house.”

Award Merit, custom home under 3,000 square feet
Project Nob Hill Haus, Los Angeles
Architect Frank Pasker, Los Angeles
Designer Grit Leipert, Los Angeles
Photographer Frank Pasker

Home for the Homeless

The site of a collapsed freeway becomes a place of home and help.

Bruce Damonte

The San Francisco high-rise with a distinctive patterned exterior and light-soaked interiors could be a high-end apartment complex or office building. There are no signs anywhere that it is home to very low-income, formerly homeless residents, many with mental and physical disabilities. Built on an infill site where a freeway collapsed in an earthquake, the five-story Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments includes 120 apartments as well as a medical clinic and community spaces. A cafe, where residents can receive job training, is planned. All the spaces offer natural light streaming through windows and glass panels that separate public space interiors.

The project also has plenty of outdoor gathering space for residents, including an interior courtyard and a community roof garden.

“The energetic rhythm of the project’s façade makes it a standout on the street, and its light-filled hallways, gathering rooms, and apartments—as well as a green roof where residents can grow their own food—garnered this inspiring and inspired project a Residential Project of the Year award,” said the Gold Nugget judges.

Awards Residential Project of the Year and Grand, attached product in an urban setting
Project Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments, San Francisco
Builder Cahill Contractors, San Francisco
Developers Mercy Housing Cali., San Francisco, and Community Housing Partnership, San Francisco
Architects David Baker + Partners, San Francisco, and Baker Vilar Architects, San Francisco
Interior designer David Baker + Partners, San Francisco
Photographer Bruce Damonte

Native Light

An affordable apartment complex offers in-town housing and help for Native Americans.

Babes Photos

The five-story Devine Legacy building sitting on an infill lot in Phoenix evokes no traditional images of Native American housing. Yet many things, from its east-facing front door, to its natural breeze-catching design, to its ability to meet the housing needs of an entire community’s young and old in one communal building, speak to the spirit of it. And, with pending LEED certification and a light-rail line at its front door, it treads lightly on the land’s resources as well, another trait of traditional Native American homes. The transit-oriented affordable apartment complex was built by Native American Connections, a nonprofit group that helps Native Americans of all tribes who live in urban settings, offering access to health and employment services. Next door to the group’s headquarters, Devine Legacy’s 65 units, from the three-bedrooms to the studios, were all leased in three months.

The building faces east, a Native American housing tradition. Sunrise and sunset can be seen from a central courtyard. The design also allows natural ventilation to the units. The first floor houses the garage, offices, and recreation rooms. The second floor offers family flats with direct access to a center courtyard where children can play. Floors three and four are two-story townhome units, and the fifth floor houses double-height lofts for singles or couples.

Award Grand, affordable project over 30 units an acre
Project Devine Legacy, Phoenix
Builder Adolf & Peterson Construction, Tempe, Ariz.
Developer Native American Connections, Phoenix
Architects/Designers Pyatok Architects, Oakland, Calif., and Perlman Architects of Arizona, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Interior designer Lawrence Lake Interiors, Scottsdale
Photographer Babe's Photos

Farm House Modern

The farm house form gets a playful, colorful makeover.

E.I. Imagery

The roots of the St. Jude Dream House may be in the American farm house, but its playful branches have extended for some considerable distance. Let’s start with the external materials. There’s vertical siding in two different widths, horizontal siding in two different widths, and then there’s the exposed unpainted concrete block. And the colors: green, light gray, gold, and barn red. Yet, somehow, all of this looks perfectly natural in the finished dwelling nestled in the Castle Rock, Colo., landscape. The home, built to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Hospitals, was a chance for architect Mike Woodley to experiment with the form without the constraints of a client. The four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home with a living space over the garage has been so well-received that Woodley’s builder brother, Bob Woodley, plans to build more. And the Gold Nugget Award judges pronounced it their Home of the Year.

The house itself is old-style green, that is to say that it uses very old, low-tech, passive techniques to save energy. The 10-foot-deep, wrap-around porch, for instance, works like a sun visor for the home that sits in the middle of sunny, mile-high Colorado. And its orientation helps keep the hottest afternoon sun off the bigger walls and allows for natural ventilation. The house’s trim is made of wood salvaged from trees killed by pine beetles.

There are some higher-tech, energy-saving techniques employed as well. Windows and patio doors are low-E. The furnace is 96 percent (versus 80 percent) efficient with the help of a variable speed fan and a dual-stage gas system.

Awards Home of the Year and Grand, best custom home under 2,000 square feet
Project St. Jude Dream House, Castle Rock, Colo.
Builder Joyce Homes, Castle Rock
Architect Woodley Architectural Group, Littleton, Colo.
Interior designer Kimberly Timmons Interiors, Denver
Photographer E. I. Imagery

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA, Phoenix, AZ.