Sculptural Steel House BY Faulkner Architects


image ©Joe Fletcher


Orinda, California, U.S.A.

Located in Orinda, California, a three-bedroom house by architect Greg Faulkner . Cor-Ten steel panels clad the exterior, while white oak offers a material counterpoint on the interior. A 12-foot-wide sliding pocket wall opens the living/dining area to a terrace. Before there was sculpture, there was a dated house on an unkempt lot. The residence, located in Orinda, appears as a minimalist steel sculpture nestled at the base of a steep hillside cloaked in dark green foliage. You see the tree and smell the oak when you walk in the house. Reynaers windows—expansive panes with thermally broken aluminum frames—evoke the feeling of being outdoors while also providing security and comfort. “These windows are more solid, they have a high rating for retaining heat and reflecting solar gain. They’re going to pay off in spades.” Faulkner dressed the exterior of the house with Cor-Ten steel—another material that will pay off in spades since it’s relatively affordable and requires practically no maintenance. ” These rusting masses of steel refresh every time it rains, just like the landscape.” The steel is a textural counterpoint to the unfinished white oak that Faulkner applied to the ceilings and some of the walls and floors. “You see the tree and smell the oak when you walk in,” he says. Basalt flooring and white gypsum walls in some areas help to break up the oak, making it more of a focal point. But the landscape steals the spotlight at almost every turn, especially in the main living area, where a 12-foot-wide opening ties the space to the outdoors. “There’s a seasonal creek on the site and strong breezes flow down its path, so I opened the house with big pocket doors to the south and a private yard,” Faulkner says, adding, “My clients say that opening those doors cools the house instantly, so they don’t have to use the air conditioner very often.” Faulkner also designed a rainwater collection system for the toilets, washing machine, and landscape irrigation. An 8.1kW photovoltaic system provides energy for the house, and ECM motors and variable-speed heat pumps limit energy use and control heating and cooling. “The mechanical and electrical systems were designed at 44.9 percent improvement over code,” Faulkner says.