Modern country living

Dramatic shapes and windows make the most of rural surroundings

Amara Holstein

Wild boars, soaring hawks, and grazing deer were exactly the kind of neighbors that Kristen Johnson and Margaret Davenport had in mind when they decided to build a home in the country for themselves and their 8-year-old daughter, Sofie. Ready to trade traffic and city noise for endless views and rolling hills, the couple bought 90 acres in a remote spot of the Dry Creek Valley just north of Healdsburg, California.

The beauty and serenity of their new land entranced both women, who share a strong affinity for the outdoors. Johnson, a physician who worked for years in the San Francisco Bay Area, was ready for a slower pace. Davenport, a winemaker who had lived in Healdsburg for 20 years, longed for a rural lifestyle. So when they were deciding on a design for their dream house, it was crucial that the architecture embrace its surroundings. "The most important thing here is nature," Davenport explains. "We wanted the house to be part of the landscape."

Upon approach the house is unassuming, with a red wall that begins outside the house and continues through the structure, ending on the exterior of the opposite side. Inside the house, the wall's purpose ― to support the family's passion for reading ― becomes clear. "Everyone's interests are represented, from novels to books about history, music, and current events," Davenport says of the thousands of editions on the shelves. The wall also downplays the jaw-dropping views that await one step beyond, in the open kitchen and the dining and living areas.

Walls facing the valley are made almost entirely of glass. "It's especially nice in the winter, when you can sit in the living room, watch the clouds and rain move in, and see the fog settle over the hills," Davenport says. Every room has a different view ― tall trees are glimpsed from the steam shower, the hills' dramatic dips are spotted from the living room.

Since the family wanted several outdoor living spaces in which to entertain, large sliding doors in most rooms enable guests to drift easily in and out. Groups of chairs are placed amid the property's many oak, madrone, and manzanita trees.

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