The Arlington property was an abandoned house offered by the bank for sale. The house wasn’t maintained properly for months if not years. This meant a rundown interior and an 18-inch tilt in the floor framing and foundation at the northwest corner, among other issues. Lack of grading and drainage had caused flooding of the crawl space; a situation that was exacerbated by the excess runoff rainwater coming from the adjacent hillside park.
Despite all these dilapidated conditions, the house projected incredible energy. The living room/dining room was in the front with large windows opening to the front deck. The Kitchen situated behind the dining room had a window as well as a door opening to the side yard adjacent to the park. The three bedrooms and one bathroom were clustered at the back of the house and were accessed via a private hallway.
The overall layout of the house was well-formed with a great transition from public space in front of the house to the private spaces in the back. Our improvement and remodeling efforts focused on enhancing the quality of the existing living spaces. While the living spaces were well arranged they greatly suffered from a lack of light and ventilation. Additionally, the indoor to outdoor relation/connection of the rooms were either a very weak or absent.
As mentioned previously, the house had great energy because of the adjacent park and its open space on the north side as well as the surrounding uphill, with plenty of trees and an abundance of light. Yet, despite all these remarkable natural surroundings, the rooms inside were cut off from the beautiful outdoors.
We started by removing the large old brick fireplace from the south side of the living room. Instead, we added a small gas fireplace at the southwest corner. We then added a large casement window in place of the old fireplace. Next, we replaced the original large fixed-glass windows in the front with two large sliding glass doors, which opened/connected the living room to the front deck, creating a smooth and seamless transition from the indoor to outdoor. In keeping up with the smooth indoor to outdoor transition, we then added sliding glass doors for all bedrooms, which gave them egress + access to the newly built outdoor landing/deck. The new sliding doors brought light and ventilation to the interior spaces. More importantly, they opened the indoors to the outdoors, a much-needed quality missing in most Northern California houses even though our favorable climate allows the use of outdoor in conjunction with the enclosed indoor spaces.
Enhancing indoor to outdoor transition for the rooms shouldn’t stop at the house. A good outdoor connection will go useless without an effort to develop the surrounding landscape for maximum viewing pleasure. This meant that developing the landscape was an essential element in our design for the house at the Arlington/park side project.
We treated each yard differently and according to its place in the relation to the house and how it would be used by the occupants. In the front and left side yards, we planted drought-tolerant Cacti and Succulents to provide pleasant surroundings for the front deck and the deck adjacent to the park. The back and the right yard in turn were made into edible gardens by building planter boxes filled with deep topsoil.
In the end, the building and its surrounding landscape were working together to create a unified living system for the entire family.