Studio Schicketanz’s Light Box

The central coast enclave of Carmel-by-the-Sea features an architectural exploration of the interaction with the local landscape by Studio Schicketanz, the project is at once strikingly contemporary while respectful of its age-old oaks and natural character.

In Designing an Airy, Heavily Glassed Home in Easy Dialogue With Its Surrounds, Studio Schicketanz Maximized the Vast Mountain and Valley Views

Near the central coast enclave of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the flashing glass edifice of a 3,521-square-foot home offers views of sun, sky, and surround. Designed by Studio Schicketanz, and set on a rural south-facing site with a clearing on top of a knoll, the significantly transparent form, which is penetrated by three plaster cubes, a house is of two distinct experiences: “one open to nature, and one cozy and protected for dark evenings and stormy winter days,” says the studio’s Founding Principal Architect Mary Ann Schicketanz.

“Textured stone walls give rise to controlled cement steps that lead to a crisply modernist structure,” with the “detailed geometric framing and a cantilevered roof” creating a shaded trellis that wraps the edifice, according to the studio.  “Light is at play everywhere, from the dappled light that hits the stone walls to the reflection of the majestic neighboring tree along the house’s expansive glass façade. The result is a uniquely vernacular modern architecture.”

Vital to the project was re-routing the original driveway. Now a subterranean garage, its green roof is shielded by a stone wall that leads up to the entry and transitions into the base for the home above. The residence and guesthouse are ordered around the courtyard. The project’s “glass cube façade was developed with the scale and density of the surrounding oaks in mind,” says Mary Ann Schicketanz.

“The stone walls are from the site—they were quarried during excavation—and the plaster and wood tone follow the palate of the natural surroundings.”

A conscious choice, meanwhile, was made to completely open public areas to the surrounding landscape and oak forest, which offers beautifully filtered light that illuminated the land with something like reverence. It’s elegant and soft.

“We wanted to evoke the feeling of sitting under a tree,” notes Mary Ann Schicketanz. 

The natural beauty of the location, which seems still and wholly alive at the same time, gives the home an experiential quality. “The site offers a magical approach through the oak forest and the experience slowly develops and unfolds when one ascends the entry stairs,” Mary Ann Schicketanz explains.

“Upon opening the front door, one can see straight across the valley to the Santa Lucia Mountains. We kept the promontory, which had been conceived for the home by the developer, open for a large central courtyard” fashioned as “an outdoor living room, which has become an essential part of the enjoyment of the home.” Beyond the courtyard walls, the landscape was left natural and now flourishes as such. This balance of manicured and wild landscape makes the home a product of its environment.

To counterbalance the home’s exposure, the studio created rooms for retreat—the kitchen, library, and bedroom wing—which “are very traditional in the way daylight enters the room,” says Mary Ann Schicketanz.

Thoughtfully edited, the interior likewise converses with the environment just beyond—one is an extension of the other. This profusion of natural light highlights neutral tones and finishes throughout, from the reclaimed teak flooring to the fir ceiling, to the striking floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace echoing the stone walls of the home’s exterior. Furnishings are similarly understated but, like the wood, glass, and plaster volumes, texturally mixed. Each interior space is meticulous.

The kitchen is particularly chic, awash in white oak cabinetry designed by Mary Ann Schicketanz, and featuring a dazzling duo of Murano glass pendants that loom large above the large kitchen island that sports a dramatic black granite countertop. The hues in this space are found in the master suite, as well; here, black-framed glass French doors open to a private outdoor space where a grand storybook oak stands sentry.

Anchored by a large Concreteworks tub, the contemplative master bath also features a pair of French doors. As does the handsome library, which is rich in built-in cabinetry. The panoramas that permeate the house render art almost needless, yet there is a sensitively attuned selection that supports the modern aesthetic. Not showy, but rather, a subtler type of statement. Other accents—a harmonious, elemental mix harmonious—are used minimally, yet memorably, in both form and feeling.

The contemplative outdoor courtyard, which is in many ways the heart of the home, is flanked by olive trees and features a contemporary stone fireplace wall. The earthy quality of the space complements the splendor of the exterior—majestic mountains, long-limbed oaks, verdant valley. Here, hardscape and landscape engage in a natural dance that partners with plantings of sage, rosemary, and oregano.

All coalesce in a picture one might expect from the brushstrokes of an Old Master. Along with comfortable and minimally accented furnishings, the courtyard makes for a cozy spot of refuge within a larger oasis. And within that oasis, a heaven on Earth.

Studio Schicketanz | studioschicketanz.com

Photographs courtesy of Joe Fletcher

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