A Renovated California Farmhouse Reflects Its Beauty in a New Pool

Large sliding-glass doors entice homeowners to venture into a serene landscape and pool area

Architect Malcolm Davis was worried. His client had called to tell him that she and her husband had bought a property and wanted to tear down an original farmhouse on the site and build a new house. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, an old farmhouse would be really cool,’” Davis says. “I was conflicted on how I felt about taking something like that down.” Then he saw the farmhouse.

Relentless remodeling had stripped its original character, split up the layout and left the structure sitting backward on the lot. “You literally drove up to the back of the house and walked in through the laundry room,” he says. “Then I was like, ‘OK, I’m not sad. This is a canvas now.’”

Fireplace Screens in Every Material and Style


Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


Houzz at a Glance
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Size: 4,200 square feet (390 square meters); four bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, plus a guest cottage of 950 square feet (88 square meters)
Designers: Malcolm Davis Architecture (architecture); Bernard Trainor + Associates(landscape architect); Quinn Morgan Design (interior design)

After tearing down the farmhouse, Davis used the mature redwood and pepper trees on the site to create focus for the new home. “It’s such a cool thing to start with, as opposed to a scorched-earth, blank piece of ground,” he says. “Trees give context.”

The house orients to the south, which worked well for passive solar heating. The homeowners, a technology investor and a psychotherapist, wanted a very “California house,” Davis says, with lots of indoor-outdoor connection.

The rear of the home opens up to a pool area and a sloping lot.


Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


The layout forms somewhat of a big H, with the living, dining and kitchen spaces on one side, and the bedrooms on the other. A family room links the two sides in the middle, bisecting two courtyards.

The living room overlooks the pool and features a double-sided fireplace with a concrete surround.

Lots of operable windows let in breezes to cool and ventilate the home. Big sliding-glass doors are meant to entice the homeowners into the landscape, which was designed by Bernard Trainor + Associates.

Table: clients’ own; Branching series pendant light by Lindsey Adelman: Future Perfect

The homeowners wanted a simple, warm modern look, but something that they would feel comfortable in if the kids’ toys got left out, or if they brought back a piece of decor from traveling that they wanted to put in the space. “The house had to accept things of different styles in it,” Davis says.

The homeowners worked with interior designer Quinn Morgan to add stylish, functional pieces.

Sofa by Antonio Citterio: B&B Italia; Pebble coffee tables: Ligne Roset; Mashup rug: Dzine

Consider Concrete Flooring for the Kitchen


Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


For the kitchen, the homeowners wanted to accommodate a lot of cooks. A counter tops a long bank of cabinets beneath the window. There’s also a large island and a peninsula (not shown), which the homeowner says helps keep guests out of the kitchen during events.

All the cabinetry is custom. Interlocking boards of walnut wrap the island. Stainless steel covers the island top, while Caesarstone covers the top of the perimeter cabinets. The concrete floors have radiant heat.

Tractor bar stools by Craig Bassam: Design Within Reach

Malcolm Davis Architecture

Davis says he always tries to design kitchens to have room for a table by a window. “It’s kind of one of the most beautiful places to be in the house,” he says.

Molded plastic C chairs by Charles and Ray Eames, round dining table by Eero Saarinen and Saucer pendant light by George Nelson: Design Within Reach

The kitchen connects to a family room with a ceiling of exposed Douglas fir framing with insulation above. The room links the two sides of the H layout. One side of the room leads to a courtyard, the other to a dining terrace and a big stairway down into the landscape.

Togo sectional: Ligne Roset; rug: Stark Carpet; Maia collection chair and ottoman: Kettal via Dunkirk

A steel table with a Masonite top forms a family room desk. White-painted steel and wood shelves store books and supplies.

Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


Out back, a simple shed roof features a deep overhang that Davis designed to strategically block or promote sunshine, depending on the time of the year. When the sun is high in the summer, the overhang provides shade. When it’s lower in the winter, the sunlight is able to enter the home through the windows under the overhang to warm the interior and concrete floor.

Durable, simple concrete columns, called Sonotubes, which are basically form-poured concrete, keep the porch area light and airy. “We didn’t want big wood posts or big square columns,” Davis says.

The ipe wood deck and cedar siding will be allowed to age, obscuring the construction date of the home. “We didn’t want it to look brand-new,” he says. “We wanted the house to be able to age and be a bit ambiguous about when it was built.”

For the overhang, a steel I-beam atop the concrete posts holds up the roof. “We talked a lot about how thick the roof should be,” Davis says. The homeowner didn’t want anything heavy-looking, so they went with a thin, delicate design.

A pool house with a pergola in the back corner has a board-formed concrete bathroom containing a toilet, sink and shower.

One of the things the homeowners didn’t like about the original farmhouse was its closeness to the street. Davis responded by pushing the new home back on the lot and putting an olive grove (seen in the background here) to block visibility from the street.

A guest structure also sits at the bottom of the slope, obscuring the main house even more. “You don’t see much from the street,” he says. “The house is supposed to be unassuming and quiet in the landscape.”

Mu collection sofas: Dedon via Dunkirk


Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


A fire pit courtyard sits near the guest structure. “There are these moments on the property where you get out in the landscape and have a different experience than in the house,” Davis says.

A 3-foot-wide landscaped staircase connects the top and bottom parts of the property. Over the public spaces, the roof slopes to the south, while over the kids’ bedrooms, it slopes to the north. “In those rooms, you look up to the northern trees on the site, and you get a different feeling than elsewhere in the home,” Davis says.

The master bedroom opens to a private patio that cantilevers over a hill. “That way, they can leave the doors open and won’t get a raccoon wandering in,” Davis says.
Curtains: Magnolia Lane

A dressing area with built-in cabinetry leads to the master suite. A large skylight pours down daylight. In the master bathroom, a skylight above brick-like tile gives an outdoor-shower impression. A barn door above the tub can roll open to give a similar outdoor experience.


Bruce Damonte, original photo on Houzz


At the front of the home, a concrete slab carries from the outside in, with the glass set right into the material for a streamlined look. A parking court sits to the right. A slatted cedar fence blocks the courtyard off the family room. The house features a greywater recycling system that uses water from the washing machine and shower as irrigation and for the toilets. Photovoltaic and thermal cells power electricity, and heat the swimming pool and hot water.

A footpath wraps around the side of the home so that guests can bypass the main house on their way to the pool and changing room during parties. The windows are operable for ventilation.

From the entry on the right, a corridor leads past a courtyard and the family room. Huge sliding-glass doors open the spaces to the courtyards. Each set of the custom doors has screens as well.

“I like a simple vocabulary of materials and shapes,” Davis says.

Bench: March

Boulders add sound as well as weight and dimension to the landscape. The one in the foreground has a bubbling water element that you can barely make out in this photo.


Floor Plan, original photo on Houzz


Barn Door Hardware to Open to the Outdoors

This plan shows the layout of the property, with the street running horizontally along the bottom, and the guest structure and olive orchard blocking views up to the main H-shaped house. (Click or tap the image to enlarge it.)

Builder: Exact Builders

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