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Architecture Is Fun

Posted on: Jun 30, 2016

Curving Planes House by Sage Architecture.

This is the “Architecture is Fun” edition of our monthly newsletter and what is more fun than looking at remarkable and innovative houses designed by terrific architects! Over the course of my long career I have been fortunate to have photographed the work of the West Coast’s leading residential architects.  Recently, we have shot a group of single-family houses that push the envelope both aesthetically and technically. We have provided links to larger web galleries if you want to look at more images of the work.

Curving Planes House

Curving Planes House, Davis, CA

Pam Whitehead and Paul Almond, the principals of Sage Architecture, run a small office in Sacramento that does amazing work.  I first became aware of their firm while shooting a handful of modernist mountain houses in the Lake Tahoe area. They have done great work there and in their more familiar Central Valley environs. The Curving Planes house was designed for a scientist and his family in the Davis area, fairly close to the University of California where he runs a research program. Curving Planes sits in an upscale subdivision just outside the Davis city limits populated by an unremarkable collection of merchant-built mcmansions. The family wanted an architecturally distinctive house, but one that could accommodate the intense summer heat that dominates this region.  In order to minimize the solar heat gain, Sage stretched the curving roof lines so that the eaves become sun shades on the west and south faces. 18 foot ceilings in the main living space create a natural draft for summertime cooling. Click here to view more images in a Flash gallery.

 Oak Knoll House

Oak Knoll HouseOak Knoll House

Not everyone can afford to build their dream home in the heart of the Napa Valley and often, when they can, their aspirations far exceed their taste. With the Oak Knoll house, that was not the case.  Here, a Silicon Valley software developer and entrepreneur had the budget, the property to build on and the good sense to hire a world class architect. The owner chose Bob Swatt of Swatt | Miers Architects to design his 6000 square foot glass and stone Wine Country estate.  Swatt gave the house a limestone clad core and then cantilevered the main structure 30 feet off its hillside perch giving it a F.L.W. Falling Water sense of deja vu. Strong horizontal rooflines are sheathed in Brazilian hardwoods and reach well beyond the glass curtain walls facing the surrounding vineyards. Sitting in the living room, one can look out at acres of some of America’s most valued vineyards and dream of the wine that they will produce at the end of the season. Click here to view more images in a Flash gallery.



High above Oakland sits a modest house sandwiched between five other houses on an impossible lot with a view to die for.  The PLUShouse, designed by architect Lindy Small packs as much design sense in 2100 square feet as you can imagine. The house makes its own electricity and saves and reuses much of its water in a rainwater recycling system.  Ten foot high windows and doors frame a magnificent panorama of San Francisco Bay and its surrounding cities.  Deep roof overhangs and louvered shades regulate afternoon and summer sun providing a comfortable ambient temperature year round. Clever, recessed LED lighting gives brilliant illumination with energy efficient ease. This house will be on the AIA East Bay Home Tours in August.


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