When artist Hadley Williams renovated her family home in California’s Bay Area, she asked the makeover team—designer Sherry Williamson, architect Andrew Mann, and builder Michael McCutcheon—for a clean-lined, elegantly simple, and ultra-eco-friendly residence. Plain-sawn American white oak played an enormous role in achieving a beautiful balance between aesthetics, sustainability, and healthfulness. Here’s a quick look.
Along with sustainability, matters of health and well-being were a priority for the client, who wanted to go beyond the issues addressed in the standard green-building certification program. Accordingly, each and every building product used was screened for a comprehensive list of more than 900 chemicals of concern. Stainless steel substitutes for brass in plumbing fixtures to eliminate exposure to lead, and alternatives to standard plywood were found to avoid the volatile organic compounds found in laminate glues. Thanks to those efforts, the house has been certified LEED Platinum—the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest ranking.
Taking their cues from the home’s exterior—a pared-down version of a traditional New England clapboard house—the team wrapped all the floors, ceilings, walls, and casework in the gutted and simplified interiors with American white oak. Certified as coming from responsibly managed forests, the horizontal boards in four different widths are applied in an intricate pattern that appears random but is actually carefully calibrated to accommodate light switches, outlets, door heads, and countertops in precise positions. There are no architraves or other forms of trim, just unembellished simplicity.
Mann designed a restrained yet striking new staircase using industrial materials to refined effect. Comprising oak treads and risers supported on a cantilevered blackened-steel underframe, the stair is fitted with a stainless-steel open-mesh balustrade topped with an oak handrail. Again, the proportions, alignments, and details of the various elements were carefully determined, emulating the homeowner’s approach to composition in her own artworks, which feature simple geometries repeated with subtle variations. That same modus operandi was applied throughout the house, accounting for the sense of calm and repose that pervades its unfussy interiors.