Photo: Bruce Damonte Photography
Photo: Bruce Damonte Photography

Amid the picturesque hills of Napa Valley, Calif., sits a luxury residence that demands notice. Downtempo, a retreat home, is a clean and open aesthetic and stands as a breathtaking example of high-end design achieved through prefabrication.

Jarrod Denton, AIA, partner at the St. Helena, Calif.–based firm Signum Architecture, presented the homeowners with a streamlined vision that blended multiple building materials, with a focus on sustainability and deference to the natural environment surrounding the retreat home. He had an ambitious goal of creating a seamless living space for his client that connected to the beauty of the region and strived to meet passive house standards. The home’s position between two knolls highlights Downtempo’s presence without taking attention from the surrounding environment.

Three main components chosen for Downtempo’s façade create a visual story: charred Shou Sugi Ban wood siding provides a texture complementing the surrounding foliage and cedar wood offers a sense of natural warmth throughout the residence. Lastly, ALPOLIC metal composite materials were specified to clad Downtempo’s opulent frame, uniting the exterior components.

MCM’s smooth black finish, used primarily on the second floor of the home, made all the difference.

“If I didn't have the metal panels on there, it would have a whole different character for the building,” Denton says. The MCM also adds visual stability to the design. “If it was all wood it just wouldn't have the crispness, the 90-degree corners.”

Photo: Bruce Damonte Photography
Photo: Bruce Damonte Photography

In addition to the atypical residential building material, this weekend house’s uncommon formation relies heavily on the use of modular construction. Only about 20% of the construction, including the parapet roof, was done onsite. In sum, Downtempo features 11 prefabricated modular units, six on the ground floor, and five on top. The approach minimized the environmental impact on the site but came with a unique design challenge. As Denton explains, “One of the initial design goals that I envisioned for this area, once the decision to use modular was made, was to make sure that there was a cohesive, well thought out exterior.”

Rigid and lightweight MCM was fabricated into long panels with no exposed fasteners and minimal reveals in service of the design. “From an overall aesthetic, that's what helps re-emphasize that this is a cohesive architectural element, as opposed to just amalgamation of all these individual modules or pieces at home,” Denton says.

“The beauty of using MCM on a residential project is that there are so many options,” explains Chad Patterson, account executive with ALPOLIC. “It can complement and even enhance the design; drawing focus where you want and creating a sleek element that really stands out.”

Sustainable and cost effective, MCM can enable complex designs while accommodating tight lead times and budgets. Ease of fabrication also allows for manipulation with the simplest of CNC routers, on the construction site or in a shop. Adds Patterson, “Installation [of MCM] is relatively easy, like hanging a picture on a wall,” confirming MCM as a product poised to make its mark in boutique, modular home design.

“It’s a remarkably lightweight material,” Patterson says. “And with custom production runs possible with as little as 1000 square feet, I’ve noticed more and more residential projects including MCM.”

The owner was thrilled with the end result. The design—with its juxtaposition of the slick black metal composite panels against the softer wood aesthetic—was like nothing he’d ever come across. “Lots of products don’t translate well between commercial and residential,” Denton explains, recognizing that atypical construction like prefabrication and innovative building products such as MCM do have a place in the luxury home design sphere.

Order your free samples today and explore the possibilities with ALPOLIC MCM.