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ARCHITECTURE LEADERS TODAY T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T R Y www.architectureleaderstoday.com

a Mexican masquerade

HARRISON WOODFIELD ARCHITECTS

When designing La Casa Paloma Blanco, Sara Harrison Woodfield was inspired by Mexican architect Luis Barragรกn, yet she maintained her own aesthetic focused on modernity and function.

Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. is located in historic Railroad Square, downtown Santa Rosa, California, with a subsidiary office in Carmel Valley, California. Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. Sara Woodfield, AIA Architect 205 5th Street, Suite M Santa Rosa, California 95401 Telephone: 707-542-1675 Email: design@harrisonwoodfieldarch.com www.harrisonwoodfieldarch.com


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The custom home designs coming out of Sara Harrison Woodfield’s firm set in premium wine country are anything but expected.

Vineyard Living by Paige L. Hill

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F

ew architects pay tribute to Mexican midcentury architecture or envision a home accented in searing, hot pink. But then again, few architects have the vision and worldliness like that of Sara Harrison Woodfield of Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc., nestled in the Santa Rosa Valley of California. When a couple from Palm Springs approached the firm with a lot in picturesque Sonoma County and an open mind about what to put on it, Woodfield envisioned a home that was not like the neighbors’. “Before I can even see if my firm is a good fit for a project, I ask the client to fill out a questionnaire that is both informational and philosophical,” Woodfield said. “I asked both the husband and wife to fill out a separate questionnaire because though two people may live together, they did not grow up together and usually have different aspirations as to what a home should be.” In this instance, the art aficionado wife envisioned a bird hovering over the ground; and the retired banker husband, a light and airy retreat. They both wanted something that recalled their time spent in the desert climate of Palm Springs. Woodfield saw an opportunity to evoke the work of self-taught, iconic Mexican architect Luis Barragán, famous for minimalism and a use of bright colors. She invited

the couple to a special 100th anniversary showing of his work in Mexico as a jumping off point. “His strong Catholicism does come through in a lot of his work, so there is a sense that you are almost walking in a holy place – he actually designed a nunnery at one point,” Woodfield said. “But what we also found on our trip were some fantastic homes by contemporary Mexican architects who are reinventing Barragán. We liked mixing the two eras, but we are still speaking the same language.” Woodfield’s finished design, La Casa Paloma Blanca, or “the white dove house” in Spanish, was a perfect fit for the couple. The home, surrounded by lush greenery and native trees, is a monasterylike oasis with every feature the couple requested, including an outdoor dining room, spaces in which they could display their remarkable art collection and a bird watering hole. The husband requested that his office overlook a place for birds to commune and Woodfield designed the minimalist, black lava rock fountain herself. The fountain backs up to a bougainvillea pink wall that recalls the flora of Barragán’s home country. “There are a lot of water features that essentially cool off the feeling of a desert temperature,” Woodfield said. The home is bordered on one side by a tall but

PREVIOUS: La Casa Paloma Blanco is the name of the modern Mexican style residence inspired by the work of Luis Barragán. The residents envisioned a bird hovering above the ground when they began working with Harrison Woodfield Architects on the design. The simple, clean lines and open floorplan keep the focus on the natural beauty just outside. OPPOSITE: The custom designed mud room at La Casa Paloma Blanco is a favorite room for the residents. Here they clean up after gardening or swimming before entering the main house. The pebbled floor and extra large sink were chosen just for this purpose. Sara Woodfield designed the window which makes a latticelike pattern on the opposite wall when the sun is in line. ABOVE: The residents wanted a bird watering hole that they could watch just outside the home office. Woodfield took more inspiration from Barragán when designing the cobalt blue fountain.

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CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: Another view of the living room illustrates how the home embraces an inside-outside style of living. The comforts of a living room spill out into the nature outside. The slate stairs leading up from the guest room display a hue of shocking pink at the end of the corridor — a trademark of Barragán’s work. Woodfield designed the custom lava rock fountain which makes up the desert-like oasis which hearkens back to when the residents lived in Palm Springs. A cobalt blue wall breaks up the clay red walls dramatically. Even the landscape is meant to mimic the desert, with sandy, wind-swept gardens and natural flora from the area. OPPOSITE: La Casa Paloma Blanco’s piece de resistance — the zipper door leading to the wine cellar. The custom door slides out from the “zipper” running down the middle. When the lime green LED lighting that lights the wine cellar is pouring out from the zipper, the contrast with the shocking pink wall is at its best.

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OPPOSITE: Woodfield said she was inspired especially by a nunnery designed by Barragán for this hallway. The exposed beams, stained glass and long windows recall the nunnery. THIS PAGE: Looking downhill at La Casa Paloma Blanco, one can see how the home almost disappears from sight. The home sits deeply in the lot per Woodfield’s design.

lean stucco wall painted clay red and highlighted in shocking pink and cornflower blue. Entering the home, preferably through the custom mud room, where the residents like to clean up after gardening or swimming, the home unfolds itself room by room. “The idea I was using is that this home is a mystery that leads you on,” Woodfield said. “The strong walls, the personal spaces, the coolness of the tile floors – they all play together.” The interior concrete walls, painted a shade of terra cotta, were insulated with Styrofoam and covered in lime wash to give the house an energyefficient base. Much of the flooring was made from recycled beams, and the rest laid with a durable tile. A lot of the cabinets were made from bamboo and designed by Woodfield. For the wine cellar, Woodfield installed a custom “zipper” door that breaks down the middle with jagged edges and slides out, in favor of a traditional door. Through the crack of the zipper, the lime green LED lighting which illuminates the wine peeks out and shines on the nearby walls. “This is something Luis Barragán does -- painting with light,” Woodfield said. Light also plays a starring role in the southernfacing living room where it dances on the gray ceramic fireplace and picks up the red metallic flecks. The living room’s expansive rectangular window frames a view of the grassy hills that protect San Francisco

Bay. The southern edge of the home blends into the natural surroundings. “Instead of sending out this ‘don’t go beyond’ message with a fence, the edge falls into a sea of grass that waves in the wind and has a life of its own,” Woodfield said. The dining terrace, which extends out from the kitchen, overlooks the edge and picks up both morning and evening sunlight. The nearby pool beckons swimmers to cool off from the heat of the pink Mexican sun. “It was a dream project, from the clients to the materials and putting it together,” Woodfield said. “Then again, sometimes I feel like most of my projects at this point in my career are dream projects.” The architect specialized in multi-family housing at a large firm in Los Angeles and in large development projects at a major firm in St. Louis, Mo., for several years after obtaining her Master’s in Architecture from UCLA and studying design in both Italy and the Far East. She got the chance to move back to California and in 1991 decided to start her own firm specializing custom homes, estates and major remodels. “I was done with the office politics of a big corporation. I started with designing the house I now live in and grew from there,” Woodfield said. By 1997, the business was thriving and Woodfield was appointed the first female president of

Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. is located in historic Railroad Square, downtown Santa Rosa, California, with a subsidiary office in Carmel Valley, California. Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. Sara Woodfield, AIA Architect 205 5th Street, Suite M Santa Rosa, California 95401 Telephone: 707-542-1675 OR Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. Sara Woodfield, AIA Architect 312 W. Carmel Valley Road Carmel Valley, California 93924 Telephone: 831-298-7146 Email: design@harrisonwoodfieldarch.com www.harrisonwoodfieldarch.com

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ABOVE: The “Italianate Residence,” as Woodfield calls it draws from a vast source of inspiration according to the architect: Italy, France, Spain Morocco and California. The view from the pool shows off the grandeur of the custom home. OPPOSITE, TOP LEFT: The spacious balcony off the second story of the Italianate Residence best illustrates the California Mission style which Woodfield incorporated into the design. TOP RIGHT: The back of the home is uniquely suited for socializing and lounging with a large patio and plenty of seating. BOTTOM: Woodfield designed the backyard so that is divided up the sloping hill the yard sits on to create smaller recreational spaces.

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the Redwood Empire chapter of the AIA. Over the 20 years that Harrison Woodfield has been in business, the firm has completed nearly 100 projects – quite a feat for a staff that runs somewhere between two and five. “There were not as many women interested in being architects when I went through school and I really did have to prove myself,” Woodfield said. On one of her recent projects, a grand pink villa, Woodfield said she strived to not do what many California-based architects tend to repeat: a “Tuscan farmhouse” — opting instead for something totally unique to the area, or “Italianate.” “I try not to say that the home is one thing or another because I like to play around with so many styles like Southern French, Spanish, Moroccan and Mission,” Woodfield said. “These bands and columns and stone trim around various parts of the home are very much inspired by central Italy.” Today, projects come to the firm through word of mouth and past client recommendation – even Woodfield’s latest client out of England who is building a custom home in Carmel Valley. Construction just began on the home that will sit on 100 acres of open ranch land, in preparation for their transition to country living in the states. The home will support husband, wife, their four children, the family’s international business and a staff of two.

“Much of the left side of the first floor of the home will be for the business which he operates from home, and above that will be two bedrooms and a lounge for the two boys,” Woodfield said. “But this is not just any great family home. They want to be completely sustainable at some point, so we have been incorporating as many green and sustainable elements into the design as we can.” The home is being built with energy-saving ten-inch thick walls that will be supported by a geothermal heating system. The core of the wall is five inches of foam insulation and a metal grid, with 2.5 inches of concrete on both sides. Much of the home is covered in stone and almost entirely wood-free, ensuring that it lasts for a century or two. A rainwater harvesting system will also account for some of the water consumption. In time, the family plans to grow their own fruits and vegetables and keep animals on the ranch. Since the home is roughly a 30 minute drive from the next largest town, Monterey, the ranch will run like a small self-sufficient village. “They aren’t just plopping a house down because they like the area and they can afford it. They are building a living system within the existing system of trees and animals,” Woodfield said. “We really get along because we think the same way. This is the way a home should be built.” ALT


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Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. is located in historic Railroad Square, downtown Santa Rosa, California, with a subsidiary office in Carmel Valley, California. Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. Sara Woodfield, AIA Architect 205 5th Street, Suite M Santa Rosa, California 95401 Telephone: 707-542-1675 OR Harrison Woodfield Architects, Inc. Sara Woodfield, AIA Architect 312 W. Carmel Valley Road Carmel Valley, California 93924 Telephone: 831-298-7146 Email: design@harrisonwoodfieldarch.com www.harrisonwoodfieldarch.com

Harrison Woodfield Architects  

When designing La Casa Paloma Blanco, Sara Harrison Woodfield was inspired by Mexican architect Luis Barragán, yet she maintained her own ae...

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