Robert Swatt retains existing mature landscaping, including redwood and oak trees, for blending architecture and nature for this site-specific Pacific Northwest home

Lafayette, California

Located near San Francisco in the Happy Valley neighborhood of Lafayette, California, Happy Valley House by Robert Swatt of Swatt | Miers Architects for Jeffrey Lee uses existing nature and the pre-existing building footprint as its jumping off points.

The site for this new 12,000 square foot home is a level 2.3 acre parcel, bordered on the north by an access road and on the south by a year-round creek.

A pre-existing single-story 7,000 square foot structure, constructed in 1938, was deconstructed to make way for the new development, however, almost all of the mature landscaping, including stands of giant redwood and oak trees, were protected and maintained to ensure Privacy for the new homeowners and their neighbors.

The Happy Valley Residence has recently been awarded a 2022 American Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

To preserve the pre-existing landscaping, one of the earliest design decisions involved reusing the overall footprint of the original 1938 structure as the basis for the overall plan of the new home.

The new home, roughly double the size of the pre-existing home, is a two-story structure with a simple H-shaped plan that creates an entry courtyard on the north side and a large covered lanai on the south side.

The kitchen and family areas are on the east side of the “H” and the home office and guest suite are on the opposite side, with a grand 2-story great room in the center — opening directly to both courtyard spaces.

Private bedroom spaces are located on the upper level, with a dramatic bridge that runs through the great room, connecting the master suite and the children’s bedrooms.

Generous roof overhangs provide sun protection on the south and west sides of the home, while vertical wood slats within the window systems provide a sense of privacy on the north side.

Materials are warm and natural and include Western Red Cedar for siding, some interiors walls and ceilings, and travertine stone walls, flooring, and outdoor terraces.

Windows and doors were custom-made of Douglas Fir, stained to match the cedar siding.

The initial design strategy of reusing the pre-existing building footprint and landscaping has proved to be enormously successful.

Surrounded by fully mature landscaping on all sides, this new home exhibits a sense of timelessness, with architecture that is carefully knitted to its site.

Project: Happy Valley Residence
Architects: Swatt | Miers Architects
Lead Architect: Robert Swatt
General Contractor: WB Elmer & Company
Client: Jeffrey Lee
Photographers: Russell Abraham, Abraham and Paulin Photography

Green Good Design Awards 2023

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