A Special Private Retreat Built Around Old Oak Trees

When confronted with a choice between showcasing the amazing views or preserving the trees growing on the site, studio Mork-Ulnes Architects actually chose to do both. They managed that by dividing the floor plan of this modern retreat into three separate sections. The house which is located in Ukiah, the U.S. is very similar to a prefab cabin in many ways but at the same time has its own unique identity.

You can see here how two of the volumes shelter the old oak tree between them, allowing it to grow undisturbedView in gallery
You can see here how two of the volumes shelter the old oak tree between them, allowing it to grow undisturbed

It’s worth mentioning that this was a project with a very small budget and in order to keep the costs low and also to follow the sustainable route which their clients preferred, the architects chose to use standard-sized off the shelf materials, including lots of unfinished plywood and OSB.

The interior design is very simple and defined mostly by neutral colorsView in gallery
The interior design is very simple and defined mostly by neutral colors
The palette of materials and finishes featured throughout the volumes helped this project stay within budgetView in gallery
The palette of materials and finishes featured throughout the volumes helped this project stay within budget
Special efforts were made to preserve all existing trees on the siteView in gallery
Special efforts were made to preserve all existing trees on the site

The site on which this unusual house was built offers views of three land formation: the Eagle Rock, mountain ridge and the vineyards in the valley below. In order to be able to frame all three views and to preserve the old oak trees present on the site, the house was divided into three volumes which extend between the trees and are oriented each toward one of the three formations. Furthermore, the structure was built on steel stilts, a decision made in order to protect the roots of the trees.

Three separate volume with different orientations converge towards the entranceView in gallery
Three separate volume with different orientations converge towards the entrance
The house was built on stilts, this allowing the tree roots to remain undamagedView in gallery
The house was built on stilts, this allowing the tree roots to remain undamaged
All three volumes have huge panorama windows in order to best capture and frame the amazing viewsView in gallery
All three volumes have huge panorama windows in order to best capture and frame the amazing views
The overall design of the house is simple, with no unnecessary features or embellishments View in gallery
The overall design of the house is simple, with no unnecessary features or embellishments
Unfinished plywood and OSB sheets were used for the interior of the house, keeping the design simple and the cost lowView in gallery
Unfinished plywood and OSB sheets were used for the interior of the house, keeping the design simple and the cost low
Although the divided floor plan is unusual, it offers many site-specific advantagesView in gallery
Although the divided floor plan is unusual, it offers many site-specific advantages
The transitions between the different volumes is seamless thanks to the open and minimalist designView in gallery
The transitions between the different volumes is seamless thanks to the open and minimalist design