LUXURY HOME QUARTERLY | Tiburon Residence
MAJESTIC BAY AREA VIEWS INFLUENCED THIS FIRM’S DESIGN
"The best projects are the ones where the client has a clear vision of what he or she wants but is also interested in our vision as architects," says Ron Sutton, founding principal of Mill Valley, California -based Sutton Suzuki Architects. "Having an open dialogue on both sides is what gets the best results."
As a successful result of this dynamic, Sutton cites a project his firm undertook last year in Tiburon, California. A 4,500 - square-foot secondary residence, the home's aesthetic was derived in large part from its location's magnificent view-A 270-degree panorama of the Bay Area featuring downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Berkeley, the East Bay, and more.
Capitalizing on the view involved a variety of design approaches. A low profile was required, so as not to intrude upon uphill neighbors. S, to bolster the property, the garage was positioned underneath the house, allowing the main living spaces above an unencumbered view, and many of the outer walls are actually large doors that open the space up to fresh air. (Motorized shades allow for sun control, and the home also features sophisticated, energy-efficient LED lighting.)
Naturally, the home incorporates a lot of glasswork, but is offset throughout by stone. "The walls are a Texas limestone, both on the exterior and interior, "Sutton says. "In many rooms, two sides are solid stone, and two sides are glass, which provides a nice balance. The stone becomes a solid grounding element to balance the glass and views." In addition to the stonework, the home's contemporary theme is warmed by extensive mahogany cabinetry and French limestone in the hallway, kitchen, and entry. The home's main living space has hardwood floors crafted from Brazilian cherry wood.
The four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath structure is also divided by function. The main living space (living room, dining room, kitchen, and family room) includes views to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Then a gallery walkway connects to the second block of the building, where the bedrooms are located. A master suite on the far end of the home - featuring a bedroom, a large closet, a bathroom a steam shower, and a private outdoor spa outside the bathroom - I connected to the rest of the home by a glass wall. The client's desire for a seamlessness between indoor and outdoor living was achieved by including a number of terraces. "There's an outdoor garden terrace off the family room, an outdoor dining terrace off the kitchen, and then the private spa terrace off the master bedroom," Sutton says.
The guest suite allows access to a living roof, which is part of another aspect of Sutton Suzuki's design approach: sustainability. "Since Elizabeth (Suzuki) and I founded the firm 21 years ago, we've been creating sustainable designs in one way or another, "Sutton says. "Siting, orientation, natural ventilation - it's always a part of our process." The firm frequently recycles its construction waste and uses photovoltaic panels, low-emission products, and energy-efficient windows on projects. On homes with pools, Sutton Suzuki Architects typically will use the pool as a heat sink, transferring heat from the air-conditioning instead of through mechanical equipment.
The fact that the firm works primarily in the greater Bay Area - a mecca of green design - makes incorporating these sustainable ideas into projects easier, though Sutton Suzuki is increasingly taking on projects outside the San Francisco area, including in Hawaii, Wyoming, Nevada, Washington, and Malibu, California. The firm will also design the occasional winery or small theater, but it has chiefly focused on 10-20 residential properties per year - new homes as well as remodels." A garage here, a 20,000-square foot estate there." Sutton says. "Custom residential design is why we founded the firm in the first place, and it's what we enjoy the most."
Still in the same office and growing steadily, Sutton credits his firm's success to tow simple ideas. The first idea is that "We are here to service our clients, to respond to them and give them what they're looking for, "he says. "We appreciate a variety of styles, and we're based in a region where both contemporary and traditional designs are popular, so we get to work within both aesthetics, often on the same project. But the focus is always on what the client wants." The other idea, one informed by the fact that Sutton's father is a contractor, is to provide contractors with every aspect of the design they need. "It sounds simple, but (getting) well-detailed, thorough drawings and documents to the builders efficiently and on time is really important for the best possible product."
"We have been lucky enough to work on some great projects with terrific clients since 1990," Sutton adds, "And we're still going."
The Tiburon Residence
The four-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot secondary home enjoys a high Bay Area perch that offers dazzling views of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. To avoid blocking the views of neighbors farther up the hillside, the entire structure was built low, and the garage was tucked underneath. The home's main living space is finished with Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, and many of its windowed outer walls are actually sliding doors that connect to terraces and allow the homeowners to open up much of the space to temperate Frisco air. The master suite contains a closet, a bathroom, a steam shower, and an outdoor spa, and the guest suite offers access to a living roof for an added eco-friendly touch.