BUILT FOR THE WEST Sunset's 1999 idea house

We adapted the classic ranch house concept, making it work for today and tomorrow
Daniel Gregory and Ann Bertelsen
Welcome to our 1999 idea house, which occupies an oak-studded knoll above San Francisco Bay in the new Cupertino, California, community of Oak Valley Estates. A joint venture between Sunset and the O'Brien Group, a San Mateo, California, developer, it's the ultimate "home on the range."

An identifiably Western home that's rooted in tradition but reaching toward tomorrow, the house provides inspiration for anyone who plans to remodel or redecorate. We asked Newport Beach, California, architect Frank Stolz to reinterpret the ranch house concept--embodied in the one-story, porch-and-patio-oriented designs of the 1940s and 1950s--using today's materials and finishes. "The key idea is that each major room opens to an exterior space," he says. Team partners included San Francisco interior designer Ann Jones and Walnut Creek, California, landscape architect Jim Ripley.

The design seems both fresh and familiar. The towerlike structure is reminiscent of water towers on old California ranches, but it's actually a high-tech home office. And the shingle siding gives a traditional look with a new nonwood product that's fire-resistant and impervious to weather.

An architect's field of dreams
By Daniel Gregory

Architecture and baseball have been Frank Stolz's passions since he was a boy growing up in Orange County. Indeed, he recently came across a plan for a stadium that he designed at age 10 or 11, "and, you know," he says, "it wasn't too bad!" The boy became an architect. After studying at the University of Idaho department of architecture, he specialized in residential design, eventually founding South Coast Architects, (www.southcoastarchitects.com), based in Newport Beach, California. We hired him to design Sunset's 1999 Idea House because of his skill at linking indoor and outdoor spaces.

Stolz aims for a clear sense of order in his designs. "The moment you walk in the front door, you should know where you are and how the house functions," he says. "The axial relationships between rooms and between indoor and outdoor spaces are key in demonstrating the ordering principle of the house."