New Residence in Sycamore Park, Mill Valley

This neighborhood has many small craftsman cottages, originally used as summer homes for San Franciscans.  Many are one storey and many have reached the end of their useful life.  This is the case of the cottage on our small lot which aligns with Corte Madera Creek in the rear.  Due to creek proximity, the property is in a floodway and subject to very strict FEMA regulations, which prevent the expansion of any existing house footprint; the rules also require raising the house above the base flood elevation in this case, about 3.5 feet above existing grade.

These combined requirements were challenges to the design of a new structure that fit within the cottage like neighborhood pattern.  The only way to grow the existing house size was to add a second storey on top of the existing footprint and raise the whole house 3.5’ above grade — quite a change from the small one storey cottage that had been there for many years. In order to mitigate the new bulk, we used over scaled windows, a hip roof form, porches and trellises to break down the mass.  The use of traditional building materials and methods, sympathetic to other cottages on the street as well as the dark colors help the house fade into the landscape. The interior layout pinwheels around a central stair which adds verticality and natural light into the center of the house. The architecture is contemporary, but has its roots in what has gone before.

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