PROCESS Home Depot Time Machine Incorporating 19th-century specters into a modern cabin’s architectural renderings. By Lauren Murrow An architectural rendering serves as an illustrative blueprint, a 3-D modeled vision of a building not yet realized. It doesn’t usually involve ghosts. But as the renderings on these pages demonstrate, sometimes the best way to envision the future is by grabbing hold of the past. Such was the case when architect Neal Schwartz of Schwartz and Architecture was hired to design a home and a cluster of small cabins on a 20-acre plot in Boonville, a rustic Anderson Valley town that’s perhaps best known for having created its own folk language, Boontling, in the 19th century. “It’s this quirky and insular kind of community tucked away in the hills,” Schwartz says. As he and designer Christopher Baile began drawing up plans for the site, they were intrigued by the potential for a contemporary guest cabin in what was formerly logging country, where skid trails crisscrossing the land still mark the path of the lumber. The pair started compiling photos of Northern California logging communities from the 1860s and ’70s for inspiration. “The logging huts they built back then had all the qualities we wanted for these cabins,” says Schwartz. “They were relatively inexpensive, mobile, flexible, and modular.” The photos from that time mark the early days of the camera, depicting washed-out images of campsites, dining establishments, and dance halls. Consulting the grainy loggingcamp photos while mocking up Schwartz’s modern-day cabins, Baile found himself going down a Boonville rabbit hole: He began to insert blackand- white figures from the past into his 3-D modeled computer renderings. The effect was oddly evocative, an artful reference to the storied site they were building upon. Better yet, it was fun. “There was this playfulness to the work,” recalls Schwartz. The pair’s collages grew increasingly elaborate, designed for both their own amusement and that of Schwartz’s clients. Though the physical mashup of the images was a fairly quick Photoshop job, the process of matching the right figure to a certain scene, one that Baile likens to making conceptual art, often took days. “We decided we wanted to tell the story of the cabin’s design using this anachronistic technique,” says Schwartz. Taking inspiration from the archaic logging huts, the pair envisioned a series of simple structures made from conventional building materials easily found at Home Depot. The 32-by-16-foot Boonville Cabin will include a bedroom, two closets, and a full bathroom. It will perch atop a pair of wooden skids raised on hand-drilled concrete piers, a loose translation of an old-school logging technique. Two hidden skylights on opposite sides of the cabin are designed to channel natural light from above, lending “a chapel kind of feel,” says Schwartz. Wooden moment frames will link a series of canted wall panels, allowing rays of sunlight to be cast down the length of each 4-by- 8-foot segment. “Originally, the thought was: How cool can the light be in these cabins? How modern can we make them?” recalls Baile. But it was the collision of old and new that ultimately hooked the architect and the designer. “It ended up being about how to fold in modern details while maintaining that rustic, logging-town feel,” says Schwartz. HABITAT Venturing Outside the Box A modern Palo Alto home that rounds out the edges. By Lauren Murrow “How much wood is too much wood?” asks architect Jonathan Feldman. In modern design, that’s a careful calibration. Too much wood and you have a rustic cabin; too little and you end up with a sterile white box. The ideal balance of organic yin and modernist yang in this Palo Alto house— the minimalist home of a Stanford business school grad—was the outcome of a creative collision between the wood-loving Feldman and Steven Stept, the project’s whitewashrevering principal architect. For every sweeping plane of cedar or floating stair tread of oak, there’s a wall-size sheet of glass or a cream-colored porcelain paver underfoot. “I pushed Steven toward warm wood and natural materials,” says Feldman, “and he pulled me toward glass, boxy forms, and crisp edges.” The result is a cedarswathed, uncommonly inviting feat of modernism—“less edgy; more livable,” says Stept. The pair conceived an indooroutdoor plan in which the living room, kitchen, and dining room overlook the backyard through 14-footwide sliding glass doors. The cedar ceiling of the living room and dining room extends over the back porch, furthering the link to the outdoors. “There was an effort to make everything about the materiality of the building as light and airy as possible,” says Feldman. The porch roof, seemingly suspended above the floor-toceiling glass curtain, appears to float. The architects maintained a neutral palette and kept the emphasis on texture: oak in the cabinets and stair treads, off-white porcelain on the floor, charcoal-gray window beams, and a slatted cedar facade. Nowhere is the break from traditional modernism more apparent than in the two-story home’s floating stair tower. Swathed in a vertical pane of glass and sheathed in cedar slats, the tower glows like a lantern as light streams through the slats throughout the day. The light-play continues on the back patio, where a round opening in the cedar roof, seven feet in diameter, reveals the sky and provides a whimsical contrast with the home’s otherwise straight edges. In clear weather, a long beam of sunlight cascades through the opening, swinging across the patio and lawn as the day passes. The architects’ attention to subtle detail continues even on the roof, where a patchwork of droughtresistant native grasses and flowers is visible only from the second-floor bedrooms. It was important to Feldman, a Palo Alto native, to create a structure that differentiated itself from the neighborhood norm. The existing hodgepodge of faux-historical homes, from hacienda-style to old Tuscan to New England clapboard, constitutes what he calls “design no-man’s-land.” Though the back of this home may be awash in glass, Feldman and Stept turned once again to cedar to clad the front facade and rain screen. “There’s almost a Japanese style in it,” Feldman says. “That wood exterior gives this boxy, modern building a delicate refinement—a sense of craft.” TRAPPINGS Latter-Day Lawn Chairs Whether in powder-coated metal, mesh, or recycled plastic, new spring seating elevates the art of loafing. By Lauren Murrow 1.Dual rocking chair $598 AT ANTHROPOLOGIE.COM 2.Fermob Sixties armchair $522 AT ALDEA HOME, 890 VALENCIA ST. (AT 20TH ST.), 415-865-9807 3.Zanotta Lama lounge chair $6,954 AT DZINE, 128 UTAH ST. (NEAR ALAMEDA ST.), 415-674-9430 4.Loll Rapson Cave chair $855 BY SPECIAL ORDER AT DESIGN WITHIN REACH, 200 KANSAS ST. (NEAR 16TH ST.), 415-638-4700 5.Bend Love seat $3,500 AT AGGREGATE SUPPLY, 806 VALENCIA ST. (NEAR 19TH ST.), 415-474-3190 6.Madame O chair $640 AT ROCHE BOBOIS, 701 8TH ST. (AT TOWNSEND ST.), 415-626-8613 7.Pool Circle armchair $2,370 AT THE FUTURE PERFECT, 3085 SACRAMENTO ST. (NEAR BAKER ST.), 415-932-6508 8.Living Divani George’s chair $2,138 AT DZINE, 128 UTAH ST. (NEAR ALAMEDA ST.), 415-674- 9430 9.Rapson lounge chair $799 AT BLU DOT, 560 VALENCIA ST. (NEAR 16TH ST.), 415- 255-2345 10.Frac armchair $550 AT CAPPELLINI, 540 9TH ST. (NEAR BRYANT ST.), 415-565- 7200 11.Loll 405 chaise $1,200 BY SPECIAL ORDER AT DESIGN WITHIN REACH, 200 KANSAS ST. (NEAR 16TH ST.), 415-638-4700 12.Arper Leaf chair $504 AT ARKITEKTURA IN-SITU, 560 9TH ST. (NEAR BRYANT ST.), 415-565-7200 13.Acapulco chair $475 AT ZINC DETAILS, 1633 FILLMORE ST. (AT GEARY ST.), 415-776-2700 14.Knoll Washington Skeleton chair $1,428 AT ARKITEKTURA IN-SITU, 560 9TH ST. (NEAR BRYANT ST.), 415-565-7200 15.Paola Lenti Frame lounge chair $4,245 AT DZINE, 128 UTAH ST. (NEAR ALAMEDA ST.), 415-674-9430 HEADQUARTERS Where Open Office Meets the Open Road The new digs of a millennial-luring auto insurer take cues from road trips, classic cars, and the Beatles. By Lauren Murrow “I am not a ‘car person,’” admits Lauren Geremia. At the outset, an auto insurance company wouldn’t seem to be the typical client for a designer better known for her stylized environments in the offices of tech giants like Dropbox and Instagram. Then again, Metromile (unofficial slogan: “Not your father’s car insurance”) isn’t your usual auto insurer. The company, which offers payper- mile car insurance measured through a custom driving app, enlisted Geremia Design to infuse its dark, 14,000-square-foot office near SFMOMA with some levity and personality. “They definitely didn’t want super-packaged design,” Geremia says. Her firm embraced an aesthetic inspired by classic cars. “Obviously, it could have been cheesy, like bad hubcap art,” she says with a laugh. “But we went about it in a more subtle way.” To counter the space’s expanses of gray concrete, drab carpeting, and limited natural light, she commissioned 20-foot-long photomurals of open roads. Chrome gleams from side tables and floor lamps, and chairs are upholstered in saddle and oxblood leather. Repurposed wood-bead seat covers serve as sound-abating wall art; vintage oil drums overflow with plants. Even the conference rooms are named for auto icons like Benz and Ford. Cactus- and palm-dotted coworking areas evoke a desert vibe; one features a custom bench topped with a sand-art installation by senior designer Becky Carter. Nearby, a crowdsourced collage features photographs of Metromile employees and their family members posing beside their first rides. “We wanted to reference car rituals and memories,” says Geremia. “Experiences that might take you out of sitting in traffic.” The auto-centric theme required Geremia to scout beyond her usual sources, seeking design elements in salvage shops. One of her finds—a collection of convex safety mirrors, more commonly used in garages and driveways—lines a cafeteria wall, ref?lecting light and brightening the windowless space. The sense of playfulness carries through to the reception area, where the desk is backed by a transparent track filled with interchangeable letters (the original configuration displayed the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car”). “We wanted to give the experience of driving a little weight and affection,” says Geremia. “It’s design that evokes an epic road trip.” RETREAT Ditching the Mission for Mayan Paradise A pair of adventure-seeking city dwellers buy into Belize. By Lauren Murrow Outer Mission residents Claudio and Rhanee Palma have always been unconventional travelers: Claudio, an anesthesiologist, spent his youth backpacking across Latin America; Rhanee, a Marriott sales executive, crisscrossed Asia. They originally planned to wed in Chile but ended up in Las Vegas—marrying at mile 2.2 of their run in the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. “We like adventure,” explains Rhanee. “When we travel, we don’t want to be at the Ritz.” So the pair cast a wide net for their honeymoon in 2010, hunting for a destination with a mix of history, culture, water sports, and nature. “After Rhanee had booked about 25 itineraries around the world,” Claudio recalls, “I convinced her to take a look at Belize.” They settled on San Ignacio, a small town in western Belize, and fell in love with the land and culture. “It’s the best place in the world,” declares Rhanee. The couple returned six times in ensuing years, often with their four children in tow. When they heard about a new beach community, Itz’ana—40 one- to threebedroom homes being developed by the Foundry Collective in the seaside village of Placencia—they immediately booked the eight-hour flight from San Francisco to Belize. The Palmas were among Itz’ana’s first buyers. They were so taken by the site’s unobstructed view of the sunset behind the Maya Mountains, says Claudio, that “we literally staked out our spot before they had drawn up any of their contracts.” The Palmas’ 1,150-square-foot, two-bedroom abode is outfitted with a private deck and perches on stilts above a lagoon. The decor, designed by New Yorker Samuel Amoia, melds 1920s French deco accents with native Central American materials. A muted palette—washed-out hues of blue, lavender, and green—references the sea, less than a 10-minute walk away. Handcrafted geometric lamps illuminate side tables made from palo blanco wood; light shades and the couple’s bedframe are woven of natural grasses; and the richly grained dining table slab was hewn from local hardwood by Belizean and Guatemalan artisans. Since purchasing in Placencia last spring, the family have returned five times to their new home, where they’ve been joined by a community of expats from Guatemala, England, Louisiana, and New York. They spend most of the day in nature—hiking, spelunking, scuba diving. At home, you’ll find the couple soaking in the newly completed plunge pool on their front deck, within splashing distance of the lagoon. “Now we can go fishing and swimming,” says Rhanee, “at the same time.”
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