Where: Berkeley, California
In his own words: “It’s a three-way collaboration with the homeowner, the designers and the site, with the site having an equal or even the largest voice.”
For architect David Stark Wilson of WA Design Architects in Berkeley, “embedding” your home in its natural surroundings in the most timeless way possible is key, whether you’re planning to build or remodel. “There’s a tendency to have a preconceived notion of the house [that architects and designers] want to put down,” he says. But Wilson believes that the site itself should determine the home’s design and layout.
Listen to the site.
The process begins when Wilson meets the clients at the site. This gets the wheels turning. “If there’s a hillside behind a home, for a feeling of openness, it’s nice to see sky above the hill from the primary spaces,” Wilson says. “That means your windows may need to be quite high up, depending on the sightlines to the hilltop and the depth of your room.”
Play up the assets.
Wilson encourages his clients to think of the best parts of their home as a guideline for what they want. “Every site has natural assets. Our goal is to enhance those assets while realizing the client’s vision for the project,” he says. “If a client envisions a large cook’s kitchen with high ceilings, for example, we look at how this will work with the floor plan. We also focus on how the space connects to the outdoor living areas, to the best views, to special elements of the landscape. The goal is to design to the kitchen, but make sure it is situated correctly and timelessly within the larger site.”
1. Start With the Great Room
The great room is the heart of most homes, and Wilson recommends looking at that space first, even if the original design priority is another area. “Often we hear from clients that they are considering a large-scale remodel yet aren’t contemplating relocating or redesigning the main common area,” he says. “Ninety percent of the time that you’re awake and social is spent in the kitchen-dining-great room area. Design that area to take advantage of both the views and outdoor access.”
The outdoor living space is an extension of the great room in this Saratoga home. Double-height windows that reach 15 feet emphasize the views of the outdoor space and the surrounding woodlands. “This is a north-facing wall, so we were able to open the glazing and not get the heat gain,” Wilson says. “The whole wall is designed to be opened up with sliding windows.”
2. Raise the Ceilings and Windows
People crave a connection to the outdoors, Wilson says: “We want to see the weather coming in, see the birds against the sky, look up into the trees, feel connected to nature. Often architecture is stingy with ceiling heights and windows. I’ll walk into a room and see a tree or the skyline cut off.” The raised ceilings in this Lake Tahoe home provide a sense of expansiveness to match its location, while 15-foot-high windows capture the spectacular mountain views and meet the scale of the pine trees just outside the home.
3. Use Texture to Emphasize Light
For Wilson, texture is second only to color in creating interest inside a home. Different textures not only add visual interest, but also can enhance the play of light within a room. This kitchen in Stinson Beach includes a range hood made of folded stainless steel. “The reflective differences resulting from the folds create the interest,” Wilson says. “It’s a textural detail that is activated by the light.”
More: For more information on David Stark Wilson and WA design Architects and examples of their work, visit wadesign.com