An Indoor/Outdoor Pavilion Takes A Family From Town To Country And From Work To Play.
Aside from its Mediterranean climate and postcard-ready natural beauty, Sonoma, Calif., has a number of claims to fame. It's the birthplace of California winemaking, home of a national film festival, and the place where the kitchen accessory store Williams–Sonoma got its start. So it's fitting that this open-air kitchen and great room celebrate the spirit of no-fuss, food-focused entertaining, and that the building is environmentally attuned to Sonoma's hot, dry summers and chilly, wet winters.
The 2,000-square foot pool house, designed by Oakland, Calif.-based zumaooh, precedes a family home that will soon be built on this 13-acre weekend property. The clients live 45 minutes away in Marin County and wanted a relaxing place to land while construction on the main house was under way. Firm architect Mark Szumowski and interior designer Michelle Wempe extrapolated from sketches of the main house, made of three volumes whose cladding will echo the pool house's coloring and materials. “The main house moves away from the sun and into shade, so it's a slightly quieter, darker palette,” Wempe says.
At the owners' request, zumaooh located the pool in a sunny meadow some distance from the house. That remoteness makes it a true escape, one where the kids and their friends can play video games and watch movies without disturbing the grown-ups, and where the husband can host his football buddies. Designed as two boxy sections—one stucco, one cedar—with a stone fireplace anchoring one end, the building holds an outdoor kitchen and an indoor/outdoor great room. Underscoring the sense of openness, a glassy exterior stairwell is “like walking up into the trees,” Wempe says. It leads to his-and-hers offices that allow the owners to stay connected to their professional lives.
The pavilion blurs the line between exposure and enclosure too. Concrete flooring travels outside around the pool, and the great room's glass walls and screens slide into hidden pockets in good weather. The interior, wrapped in FSC-certified white oak, includes a mini-kitchen/bar and media center. “It's about feeling cozy even though it's an outdoor space,” Wempe says. “When it's pouring rain, which happens a lot in winter, that room feels warm and protected, yet connected to the outdoors.”
Pastoral views dominate in this wide-open landscape, but so, unfortunately, does the scorching summertime sun. Roof-mounted solar panels offset the cost of air conditioning, and for passive relief, Wempe and Szumowski devised a galvanized metal “ceiling” that shades the kitchen and dining area. “The open metal grid is angled so that the space never gets direct sun,” Wempe says, “but when you're under it you see blue sky.” The kitchen, a streamlined, wipe-and-go affair, is outfitted with all the tools that go into making a meal—grill, gas oven, fridge, ice maker, warming drawer, and dishwasher—and a roll-down door secures the entire alcove when the owners are away.
Creative and uncomplicated, open but ensconced, the pool house is an extension of domestic life, a socially dynamic place where friends are treated to one of life's great pleasures: food and drink prepared outside.