Barns ― the ones Ron remembers from growing up in rural Minnesota and the one standing on the property ― inspired the home's design.
"Barns are beautiful and simple. They have an open floor plan, big openings to the outdoors so livestock and equipment can pass through, and lots of storage," Ron says. "I adapted those ideas for the house."
The house has an open plan. Large, barnlike doors slide on tracks to screen the office and bedroom for privacy. Huge sliding glass doors line the east side of the house. When they roll aside, no barrier exists between the living area and the landscape. It is, indeed, large enough for a tractor to pass through.
Sentimental objects surround the Suttons. They were married in the house before it was finished, and they registered at a nursery so guests could give flowers and trees for the landscaping as gifts. "When we show people around, we point out the plants they gave us," Ron says.
Design: Ron Sutton, Sutton Suzuki Architects, Mill Valley, CA (415/383-3139)
On the trail of simplicity
In a traditional barn, you won't find finishes like drywall or gypsum board. Instead, the framing, beams, and joists are exposed. The same holds true in many areas of this house.
"I wanted the materials to be simple and express themselves. I think that's really beautiful," Ron says. "The contractor couldn't believe it when I didn't want to cover wood beams or iron I-beams. I didn't polish or cover the concrete, or even erase or paint over the pencil and chalk marks the workers made."