January 31, 2019

Mork Ulnes Architects and Office of Charles de Lisle Create a Minimalist Guesthouse in Sonoma

A self-proclaimed “diplo-brat,” Casper Mork-Ulnes was born in Norway, moved to Italy at age 2, and came to San Francisco at 16. He also lived in Scotland and studied architecture at California College of the Arts and Columbia University before establishing Mork Ulnes Architects back in San Francisco. He now has an Oslo office, too.

That’s an unusually lengthy introduction, granted, to an unusual small project in the Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen. Mork-Ulnes had remodeled the property’s original house for its previous owners. The new ones, a family of five, brought him back for a guesthouse. At 840 square feet, it comprises three volumes, each of which contains a bedroom and a bathroom. They’re arranged in a stepped configuration, sharing party walls and a canted roof but no internal corridor. Roof overhangs shelter three terraces.

Behind the guesthouse stretches a 56-foot lap pool. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

As for where the guesthouse would sit on the heavily wooded ridgeline property, he had no choice. Only one spot was flat enough to install a lap pool alongside. He did make the choice to build in concrete, due to its “performative nature for structural integrity and thermal massing,” Mork-Ulnes explains, and the ability to withstand the area’s all too prevalent wildfires.

Bedrooms have Charles de Lisle’s custom beds in knotty pine, paired with his brass lamps set on custom nightstands in plywood and linoleum by Doug McCollough. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

The concrete roof is smooth-troweled, and exterior walls are board-formed concrete. “Inside, we got more refined, using large panels,” Mork-Ulnes says. Concrete flooring is radiant-heated. Even the bathrooms’ sink vanities are concrete.

Glass walls face north and east. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

Furnishings show the hand of the Office of Charles de Lisle. “I’ve known Casper since our 20s, so it’s cool to come full circle,” Charles de Lisle says. His inter­pretation of the architecture’s minimal Scandi look takes the form of headboard-less platform beds with bedcovers in “a ’70’s burnt orange,” he continues, also noting Martino Gamper’s pine side chairs. “They add a toasty and familiar quality to these bunkers.”

A breezeway wraps around to a bedroom’s covered terrace. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

That’s surely appreciated by guests as well as by the owners. They’ve been camping out here lately, as the main house has been demolished to make way for a new, larger one by Mork-Ulnes.

Before the 2017 wildfire, Douglas fir and knobcone pine trees and manzanita evergreen shrubs dominated the 18 acres. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

Martino Gamper designed the chair and stool in each bedroom. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

A troweled con­crete roof ties the three volumes together. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

Sink fittings are powder-coated. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

Vanities are concrete. Photography by Bruce Damonte.

> See more from the January 2019 issue of Interior Design

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