Pro Portfolio: Ojai Valley home built to fend off fire
Project: New construction on 40 acres of chaparral.
Location: Upper Ojai Valley.
Architect: Davis Brown Architecture. Structural engineer: Alexander Pyper, (323) 256-4486. Civil engineer: Randy Toedter, (805) 671-9811. Chaparral restoration: Margot Griswold, (213) 200-3099.
Architect's description: This site slopes gently upward toward the Topa Topa foothills and beyond to the bluffs. Oaks and walnuts dot the chaparral, and sycamores, cottonwoods and California bay trees line the streambeds.
The architects began with the image of a simple barn in a meadow but elaborated on the design in response to the ecosystem. Their primary concern was fire. Historically, wildfires sweep down the canyon every 30 years or so. The sometimes-extreme climate, with summer temperatures often above 100 and torrential rain in winter, also demanded architectural responses.
The house was designed to be entirely closed off to wind-driven flaming debris. All the glass is set back and can be closed off with steel barn doors. The structure of the house is wood–free; it is entirely framed with steel studs; steel sheet metal is bonded to the interior dry wall.
Extensive glass on the southern end provides passive radiant heat. Two solar hot-water panels are complemented by a 5-kilowatt thin-film photovoltaic array laid between the ribs of the metal roof. The house approaches net zero energy use.
The area immediately surrounding the structure has been cleared of flammable plants. An 8-foot-wide swath of ¾-inch crushed rock surrounds the house and helps to drain storm runoff from the roof to a seasonal stream. The pool is set in a broad gravel terrace that provides further drainage.
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Looking through the kitchen, you see the master bedroom in the distance.
In the living room: The desk in the foreground is an 18th century French walnut piece. A pair of 19th century Chinese cloissone pots sit on top. The chair is 18th century English Chippendale. A 1980s Italian Donghia couch is on the left, and the Ny rocking chair and ottoman by Takeshi Nii are near the glass doors. On the right: a 19th century Japanese tansu.
In the dining room: The walnut farm table is an 18th century French piece. The dining chairs are midcentury German designs from a Richard Neutra property in Silver Lake. The demilune table under the mirror is a 19th century French antique. The Pensi ceiling fan is by Modern Fan.
Glass connections to the living room and the kitchen can be closed off with sliding fire doors.
The windowed bay for the kitchen opens onto the pool and terrace.
Sage and deerweed grow with a cluster of oaks in the distance.
-- Lisa Boone
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Photos: Anthony Rich