Hemlock House by Alexander Jermyn Architecture in California, USA

Project: Hemlock House
Alexander Jermyn Architecture
Soda Springs, California, United States
3,200 sf
Year: 2021
Photographs by:
Jeremy Bitterman

Hemlock House by Alexander Jermyn Architecture

Nestled on a sloping lakeside in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the Hemlock House, designed by Alexander Jermyn Architecture, redefines the alpine home with innovative material choices. To counter the region’s challenging weather, including heavy snowfall and wildfire threats, the team tested material resilience over a winter season. The result is a stunning blend of charred wood walls floating above a concrete base, resembling a ship’s hull. Sliding glass doors along the lakeside allow direct access to the water, while the interior is flooded with light, emphasizing a connection to the landscape. The upper floor houses the main living spaces, capturing panoramic lake views, while a mezzanine serves as an artist’s studio. The ground level accommodates practical functions like a garage, ski-tuning station, media room, and guest rooms.

Situated on a gently sloping site on the edge of a lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, this residence re-interprets the alpine house type through a distinct material strategy. The winters in this region are severe and receive some of the highest snowfalls in the continental United States, often burying homes up to the roofline. In summer, wildfires are a constant threat. In response to these constraints, the design team installed mockups over a winter season to test material resiliency.

The result is a composition of charred wood walls over a concrete base. The charred (shou sugi ban) upper volume floats above and contrasts with the snow below. The concrete walls bolster the house against snow loads while providing a protective shell against the elements, analogous to the hull of a ship. The porous lakeside façade is composed of sliding glass doors providing views and a direct connection to the lake.

The interior prioritizes light and connection to the landscape. The palette of bleached hemlock and white walls reflect sunlight throughout the interior and down to the lower level via the stair. The primary living and dining functions reside on the second floor to capture views of the lake. A daylit mezzanine floats above the kitchen and serves as an artist’s studio. The ground floor houses the garage, ski-tuning station, laundry, media room, and guest rooms.

The internal spaces were designed to accommodate both community and privacy. Built-in benches define intimate spaces within the larger footprint of the family and dining room. The bunk room sleeps 4-8 with full-size bunks and is equipped with powered cubbies to facilitate remote work and play. The media room adjacent to the bunk room serves as an overflow space for additional guests.

The bulk of construction took place during the pandemic. The owner and architect were in a β€œpod, driving long hours together for site visits. This togetherness presented a unique opportunity for conversation, collaboration, and ultimately a common vision for their family.

Alexander Jermyn Architecture


Tags: Alexander Jermyn Architecture, California, contemporary, exterior, interior, luxury, modern, USA

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