The Owner-Builder Network

Atherton – a pond needing a new home

Near San Francisco CA  –  Turnbull, Griffin Heasloop

Year Built:     2009
Built area:      House 3,335 sf | Garage 815 sf | Home office 575 sf | Cabana  505 sf
Lot size:         49,770 sq (4,600 m2)
Photography:   David Wakely

A dilemma! A beautifully landscaped lot with a structurally unsound home! Doesn’t sound too hard so far? But what if the main component of that landscaping was a very large pond? These owners took the challenge.  They wanted their new house to be a private retreat that would take maximum advantage of the pond while also maximising the privacy of the battleaxe shaped lot accessed by a deep driveway.

A waterfront home in suburbia!
A waterfront home in suburbia!

While many buyers shy away from battleaxe blocks – also known as flag or easement lots, they offer many advantages in terms of privacy and usable yard space. Rather than needing to dedicate space to a ‘street frontage’, all the available land can be used for functional purposes ranging from play areas to vegetable patches. As this home demonstrates, the judicious use of a pavilion style layout has resulted in a true oasis for the family that works superbly with the aspect and available assets.

From the architect:

Located on the peninsula south of San Francisco, this house sits on an internal suburban flag lot. The previous 1950s house, removed due to structural problems, featured mature landscaping and a manmade pond that the clients wanted to preserve.

The design solution breaks the program into four buildings – main house, study, pool house and garage – that ring the edge of the site and focus inward on the pond, garden and pool. Large sliding glass doors open directly out to the pond and terrace. The roofs conceal photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. The house is heated with a radiant system in the stone floors, and despite the hot climate it is not air conditioned, but passively cooled with a combination of overhangs, shades, and operable windows. The house also features many green building materials, including high fly-ash concrete, formaldehyde-free casework and denim insulation. The new house creates a special place for the clients, making a main residence feel like a vacation retreat.

OK… I know from previous posts that some of you good readers are going to raise the mosquito issue. Permanent water creates a habitat for a whole range of creatures including those that feed on mosquitoes. The easy solution is frogs and fish. Frogs will find the pond all by themselves but you’ll need to introduce the fish. Every region has it’s own small fish that live on mosquito larvae. In Australia, it’s the Pacific Blue-eye. What is it in your area?

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