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This Home Is A Healing Hideaway For A Busy Chef And Her Family

Designed by Award-Winning architecture firm, Mork-Ulnes Architects, its Sonoma location allows the family to grow a vegetable garden and take walks in nature

“The house is our own healing sanctuary. It’s peaceful and private. We love reading outside, working in the garden, and taking shade under the large oak tree by the fire pit when the afternoon sun is intense. This house and kitchen are also perfectly designed to have a weekend retreat with cooking included or host an occasional cooking class,” says Hollie Greene-Rottman, a chef and food educator who shares this home with her children and husband, Jim Rottman, the Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for a pharmaceutical company.

Thus the house was designed as a retreat (but full time residence) for the couple, who spend much of their time in the vegetable garden cultivating their food, and especially for Hollie to use the custom made kitchen as a laboratory for healthy meals to inspire her job teaching children and school-cafeteria staff.

Triple Barn by Mork-Ulnes Architects, located in Sonoma Valley, CA was designed as a full time residence and a retreat. | Bruce Damonte

The objective was to create a place to entertain family and friends but also a place to re-energize and find peace and tranquility away from busy lives of Hollie’s work in the schools and Jim’s frequent business trips around the world. After living for more than a decade in cities such as New York and San Francisco, the couple asked for a residence that would allow them to connect with nature in a new way. Their dreams were met thanks to the secluded location and the creation of a large vegetable garden. Among the amenities, the couple wanted a large professional styled kitchen, private master suite, two guest rooms, and a separate office, so that when the couple engaged in cooking or entertaining, they could turn off their work and be present in their home together.

Caption: Mork-Ulnes Architects. Triple Barn in Sonoma, California. | Bruce Damonte

Rising Up Through The Concrete Void

The 1750 square foot (160 square meter) home sits on a steep hillside in Sonoma overlooking panoramic views from the Sonoma Valley to Marin County. Approaching the house from a steep driveway, the visitor sees a triple roofed rusted steel form peeking out over natural grasses and iron-red soil. Arriving at the house, the guests are guided to the front door through the large concrete void.

From the lower entry, a dynamic winding stair brings you up through a concrete volume into the main residence where you are greeted with a stunning view of the valley from a large picture window. The stair lands in the middle of the public space of the house, with the kitchen and dining room on the north end and a long living room heading towards the private guest rooms and master suite.

The kitchen is expanded outdoors under a large cantilevered eave which creates a shaded respite from the hot Sonoma sun. The overhang creates a continuation space for the kitchen, as the kitchen counter extends into the landscape with an outdoor bar and grilling area and outdoor living room. The glass façade in the living room opens to Sonoma Valley, presenting the owners with sunsets: a perfect landscape for a dinner with friends or to enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a long day of work.

The outdoor space is a middle zone between the edible garden, and the fire pit under a large Oak tree on the hill above.

Mork-Ulnes Architects. Triple Barn. Sonoma, CA | Bruce Damonte

The Interiors

Built with an open floor plan, the house and its furnishings were cleverly designed to provide the family with many small private nooks. The orange chairs in front of the big picture window, the seating area in the kitchen, the deck off the kitchen, the chairs by the garden, and the fire pit, all offer serene spaces to retreat to. Vintage light fixtures and industrial furnishings were strategically placed in the home to root it to its agricultural heritage.

The interior furnishings of the house were selected with a dusty sunbleached palette to allow the brightness of the house to reign and suggest that the furnishings had been in the space for a long time. Since the house can read as one room, the palette of each room needed to be complementary to the next.

The wooden patio and indoor living space merge thanks to the clever design of the patio doors, thus doubling the space for hosting dinner parties (up to one hundred guests) or one of Hollie’s informative cooking classes. The kitchen thus becomes the heart of the house.

One of key features of this custom made kitchen is the hidden pantry that stores dry goods, appliances, and the many pottery dishes, platters, and glassware the couple have collected over the years. The open-faced drawers are easily accessible for cooking equipment and daily use, keeping the kitchen space clean and spacious. A handmade walnut farm table was designed for the couple and their friends to dine together.

“This was the first time we had the opportunity to design a kitchen,” says Hollie. “A few elements were important to us: space to prep food together and have space to move freely but smartly - everything within easy reach, which by definition doesn’t require great space, just well thought-out design,"  she continues.

Mork-Ulnes Architects. Triple Barn. Sonoma, CA/ In the kitchen, the faucet is by Hansgrohe. Countertops are marble, and the flooring and cabinetry are douglas fir. | Bruce Damonte

About the Architects

With offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Mork-Ulnes Architects approaches projects with both Scandinavian practicality and Northern California’s ‘can-do’ spirit of innovation.

Rigorous and concept-driven, the practice is based on built work characterized by both playfulness and restraint, and informed by economies of means and materials. Mork-Ulnes Architects have worked on projects ranging in scale from masterplans to 100 square foot cabins, and have realized buildings on 3 continents.

Mork-Ulnes Architects has been the recipient of numerous national and international honors, including Architectural Record’s 2015 worldwide Design Vanguard award. They have been nominated for the 2019 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award.

Mork-Ulnes Architects is led by Norwegian born, Casper Mork-Ulnes was raised in Italy, Scotland and the United States, which has brought a broad perspective to his eponymous firm’s work. In 2015, Casper was named one of “California’s finest emerging talent” by the American Institute of Architects California Council. He was selected by the Norwegian National Museum as one of “the most noteworthy young architects in Norway” with the exhibit “Under 40. Young Norwegian Architecture 2013.” Casper holds a Master of Architecture from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Architecture from California College of the Arts.

Story contributed to Metro.Style by Sara Marzullo, Image Media.