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Tiburon, Calif., Residence

House + House Architects

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  • House + House Architects
  • Landscape Architect: Christine Swanson
  • Robert Guild General Contractor

Project Status



2,150 sq. feet

Construction Cost




Room or Space


Living Room

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Project Description

2003 CHDA
Custom Renovation / Merit Award

Before House + House Architects got their hands on it, this bland, beige Ranch house couldn't have been more unremarkable. By merely adding a room, making some slight structural changes, and saturating the project with offbeat color, they skillfully remade it into a place so pleasant that the judges themselves fantasized about living there. “That's just a house I could hang out in,” said one. “It's pretty amazing, especially considering what they started out with.”

Architects Steven House and Sonya Sotinsky started with the home's one-story plan. They moved the formerly nondescript entry to the north side of the house, so it could easily be entered from the garage. And they added a walled garden between the buildings, “to create a sense of procession from the garage into the house,” says House. A family room addition and deck filled out the home's rear yard, which looks toward a view of the San Francisco Bay. The architects also opened up the kitchen to the living and dining area, using the space gained by moving the entry to enable a more graceful traffic pattern between the rooms.

When the time came to choose materials and finishes, the clients' tight budget ruled out top-of-the-line items. Instead, House and Sotinsky used color and creative finishes to achieve the warm atmosphere that so impressed the judges. Black laminate tops the kitchen counters, while the same material in lime green covers the cabinets. Horizontal aluminum channels inject visual interest into the maple plywood paneling that functions as an accent throughout the home. The melon-colored, hand-plastered walls and bold, red-painted ceiling liven up the public spaces, while black-stained oak floors have a grounding effect on the entire house. “This project was about taking a relatively small house and using a rich palette to open it up,” House says.
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