With all the recent horror stories we have been hearing about the wild fires across the southwest and California, it is nice to hear a good outcome on occasion. We received such an email last week from one of our clients.
The message notified us that their residence, designed by Blackburn Architects, PC and constructed by Crocker Homes, found itself in the middle of the Seven Fire, a wild fire, that blew through the foothills of the Sierra Mountains on July 10th. Finished earlier this year, the four bedroom, 3,950 square foot private residence is located in Seven Legends Ranch overlooking Lake Don Pedro.
Luckily, the wild fire was first spotted by a plane that was helping fight another fire in the area. According to authorities, the fire destroyed over 800 acres in a very short period of time. Though the entire area around the property was consumed by the fire, the house survived the conflagration due to the defensible space fire protective measures installed during construction.
Defensible space fire protection measures, also known as “firescaping,” are fire control methods instituted in the California code that focuses on the landscaping around a building. The concept targets the area within 100 feet of the building and emphasizes fuel reduction by specifying appropriate spacing and separation of plant types. Plant selection, segregation, and spacing all play a major role in preventing the spread of fire between different types of vegetation and in an effort to reduce its ability to reach the structure.
Although the design and installation of the measures tend to add to the initial cost of construction, they have been proven to work. Not only does this helps save lives, but it also helps prevent rising insurance costs in the country’s fire prone areas. In Seven Legend’s case, the firescaping provided sufficient time for the local fire department to deploy to the property, spray the home with fire retardant, and save it from being completely destroyed. Our thoughts go out to all those who have not been as fortunate.
Photos and news footage below.
Are you familiar with Houzz? It’s a virtual catalogue of residential projects from various architects and designers. My firm has been using it lately to present a few of our residential (which includes renovated guest and “party barns”) projects. Non-designers can browse various projects, using a keyword search (think: modern, traditional, eclectic, etc.) or by the firm itself, and compile favorite photographs into what the site calls an Idea Book. I know that all of my clients benefit from photographs of projects to help illustrate or visualize their ideas or design aesthetic and I really like how this site is a one-stop-shop to do just that. I hope you’ll check out the site and let me know what you think — and of course, I hope you’ll add a few photos from the Blackburn portfolio to your very own Idea Book!
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’ve been practicing architecture for over 30 years. As a consequence of all that time, I’ve had the opportunity to design all types of facilities, from garages and additions to horse barns to new and renovated residences. Like many architects, I enjoy working with all types of clients and building types, as I’m always eager to confront a new design challenge. So I thought I’d share a residential project that follows the same ideals I always pursue: design that balances the demands of the site with the needs of the owner.
The Grant Residence and artist studio, located on a historic family estate in Ware Neck, Virginia, was designed to fit in the historic architectural context of the pre-Revolutionary War era property. The estate includes an original home, Lowland Cottage, which was built in 1670 and is listed as a registered historic landmark.
The original home, Lowland Cottage, remains on-site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new artist studio and main house, both designed by Blackburn Architects, were built around stringent wetland requirements, yet they still take advantage of the scenic panoramic river views on three sides of the site.
Both structures feature hardwood floors and French doors throughout, building on the historic context of the Lowland Cottage and other structures on the Ware Neck peninsula. French doors in the main residence lead out to a spacious screened porch with ceiling fans, accessible through the kitchen, living room, and dining room.
An 18’ by 64’ screened porch serves as a welcoming exterior room that stretches the full width of the west side of the house with 180-degree panoramic views of the beautiful sunsets across the Ware River. The room was designed to be usable in all seasons with passive solar heating in the winter, and cooling river breezes in the summer.
The second floor occupies space within the roof using a series of dormers and gables to provide head room for three bedrooms while the master bedroom is on the main floor. Built-in china cabinets enhance the contemporary design of the interior while modern lighting focuses attention on the highlights of each specific room. The lighting is adjustable for showcasing artwork, including that of the artist-owner.
The artist studio complements the cottage-style of the main residence and the original Lowland Cottage. Both buildings were designed to comply with the requirements of the Historic Review Commission.
On a recent trip to California, I had the pleasure of stopping by one of our project sites in Tuolumne County to check its construction progress. The contractor, Crocker Homes Inc., recently began the foundation work for a new residence at Seven Legends Ranch, which looks fantastic. What a view! When completed, the ranch’s program will include a main residence, a six-stall barn, and a guesthouse, all of which will incorporate heavy timber and western red cedar siding. We’re very excited to watch the progress continue and hope that the owners, at this same time next year, will enjoy their new home while relaxing in the Sierra Foothills and enjoying the breathtaking views of the snow-capped peaks of Yosemite National Park in the distance.