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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.