Sleek Ranch Update in Lafayette


A humble 2,200 square foot ranch house in Lafayette, California is about to be transformed into a spacious five-bedroom, three-bath home.   Over 700 square feet of new conditioned space will be meshed into the footprint of the existing house, and adapted toward the reuse of the existing foundations – befitting the single-story ranch character of the neighborhood.  The project will include a fully revised landscape,  pool, parking and cabana spaces.

The house exterior will feature natural and painted wood finishes with deep overhangs, exposed rafters and structural steel members; windows will be shadow-boxed to create depth at all wall punches; a new roof with all insulation placed above the structural sheathing will allow for exposed interior framing; grey-water will be captured from all sinks and showers;  roof-monitors will allow natural light to filter gently through “land-locked” living areas. Finally, a fully retractable Nana curtain-wall will create a seamless relationship between the interior and rear terrace, pool and cabana spaces. Project completion slated for Spring, 2015.

The house is sited along the Lafayette-Moraga Regional trail –  a well-loved green-way which evolved as a means to transport lumber via mule and rail – to its current form as utility easement and public park space.  Community members living near the trail seem to use it as often for exercise as they do for easy access to retail and public transportation.

Love Front

Given the popularity of the trail, as is true with other sites in Lafayette – brokers understand that the value of these older houses is in their location near the trail, and that the original homes are often ready to be remodeled or rebuilt.  This particular house started life as a small  L-shaped ranch with a rear chimney, courtyard, masonry shingle roof and painted wooden siding. Subsequent additions created a bedroom wing, and filled the original rear courtyard with a large living room on a concrete slab.

The current house does not take advantage of its footprint: Roofs and rooms do not associate with each other in a fluid way;  floors are at different levels; and the rooms are never quite the right size.  The kitchen is a tight galley that doesn’t add to the life of the house, and the adjacent entry is awkward and without elegance .  Our job, as an architect-client team, has been to arrive at a relatively simple idea for pulling this project together. The clients immediately understood that the location and neighborhood demanded a transformation, as the value proposition was clear.  Since the lot has length to expand within the setbacks, a second floor will not be necessary.  While it was discussed and tested, potential issues of zoning and construction efficacy ruled this out.


In order to keep this project within the legal bounds of a true renovation, we’ve endeavored to reuse most existing perimeter footings and walls, many of the existing exterior walls, and the current entry porch and driveway locations. In all cases, new fenestration, wood and stucco cladding, and structural supports will be added to augment walls for revised roof framing. The existing brick chimney – which once marked the rear of a small cottage – will be removed.  Minor perimeter profile changes include small additions on several corners of the house, though the largest intervention will be a new projecting wing to the rear – providing space for a new kitchen and dining wing.

The great advantage of restoring the house to an L-shape is in the creation of a lovely new family courtyard to the rear.  The client loved the idea of being able to open the kitchen and living room walls fully to this outdoor space.  While air conditioning  is  standard for hot summer days in parts of the East Bay, the climate is still perfect much of the year for a fully retractable glazed wall system, the leaves of which can be hidden within thickened exterior walls.


The new roof is key:  The existing roof was ready to be replaced, and a sleeker building form was desired. Our solution was to create a lower profile roof pitch, in a butterfly shape, which could consolidate drainage to the middle of the house into carefully designed troughs.  While the idea of consolidating the collection of rain water on either side of the building for storage and/or on-site distribution and irrigation was appealing to the client, so was the result of a roof that lifts up along the rear and front of the house to bring light well into the interior.

And to ensure that the deeper interior spaces of the house will be well lit, we designed two linear banks of clerestory windows – monitors – to bring gentle reflected light into the renovated structure.

Finally, the existing garage will be removed, and with clear encouragement from the planning department, a lighter structure will be built in its place to fulfill the city’s 2-car site parking requirement.  The new garage will feature a two-sided approach: a covered car-port that can double as a shaded pool-side cabana, as well as an enclosed single car garage space that will also function as storage