Situated on a steep waterfront lot flanked by suburban context, the Four & Four House knits together the client’s affinity for mid-century, post-and-beam construction with contemporary adaptations. The site’s generous width with its semi-naturalized condition presented an opportunity for landscape elements to organize the sequence of the house in the form of four distinct courtyards. Clad in locally-milled yellow cedar, four massive beams frame these spaces: A sunken courtyard at the entrance framed by concrete walls provides lateral and vertical separation between vehicular movement and guest arrival. A naturally planted garden courtyard opens up toward the sky in a double-height atrium to bring in filtered south light to the interior spaces below. A sheltered outdoor living room immediately next to the garden provides the setting for multi-seasonal activities. A lounge deck hanging over the concrete base of the house gives way to unobstructed views of the water and its ever-changing conditions. Spatially, the central courtyard separates the flanking formal and informal living areas while still allowing visual connection through full-height glazing. A fully glazed gallery acts as the intersection between the living spaces, sunken courtyard, and garden. The upper floor—a screened volume that contains the bedrooms—spans the outdoor living room below like a bridge. This volume is strategically shifted toward the street so that the monolithic façade at the south elevation conveys a sense of privacy when viewed from the street. Meanwhile, lowered window heads visually reduce the house’s massing from the water’s edge to give it the appearance of a single-storey volume following the client’s appreciation for mid-century aesthetics.
Founded in 2008, McLeod Bovell is a collaborative design partnership consisting of 16 designers specializing in complete residential design. Over the last decade, we’d accrued experience designing houses on steep, irregularly-shaped land. While these areas often boasted significant views, their immediate natural features may not always be remarkable—neither fully cultivated nor untouched wilderness. Under these conditions, the priority of the view can dominate the discussion. Our work makes efforts to balance the primacy of this view with opportunities afforded by extreme topography that allow for varied and particular programmatic sequences. Through continuous dialog with clients, we establish a framework for design decision-making. Ideas evolve from this investigation rather than pre-conceived, prescriptive solutions. Prioritizing spatial experiences and idiosyncrasies, we hope to create work that conveys feeling, specific character, and is receptive to influences beyond our region.