Small House

This guest house, small at only 850 square feet (80sm) has a strong presence on an impressive site overlooking the Dry Creek Valley near Sonoma, California. Almost the same amount of area is given over to terraces, taking advantage of the beautiful vistas. Architects Chris Cooper and Wendy Evans Joseph answered some questions about their design, marked by a concrete wall running the length of the plan.
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?

Selected by owners based on past work.
Can you describe your design process for the building?

Intensive study of the site and climate/orientation. Numerous physical models were built to test the building form and its link to the topography.
Living Room
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?

It was realized perfectly by the contractor. The 30-foot-high concrete wall dividing the house was a technical achievement.
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?

Smaller than most residential work.
Section 1
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?

Small is sustainable. We also used a solar array for power and a high albedo [surface reflection] roof. The detail work is highly sophisticated.
Section 2
Are there any new/upcoming projects in your office that this building’s design and construction has influenced?

Yes, we are using a similar aesthetic for a new museum in Southern Utah on a university campus.

E-Mail Interview conducted by John Hill

Small House

Sonoma, CA

Charles Homcy / Diana Sylvestre

Cooper Joseph Studio
New York

Design Principal
Wendy Evans Joseph
Chris Cooper

Project Architect
Wendy Evans Joseph
Chris Cooper

Project Manager
Chris Good

Project Team
Chris Good
Farzana Gandhi

Architect of Record
Richardson Architects

Structural Engineer
Tysinger & Associates Structural Engineers

Landscape Architect
Jacobsen Landscaping

Interior Designer
Cooper Josheph Studio

RedHorse Constructors

Construction Manager
David Warner

Zinc Siding
VM Zinc

Composite Decking
Timber Deck


Counter Tops

Oak Millwork
Custom-stained Oak

Site Area
25 Acres

Building Area
850 sq. ft. enclosed

Elliott Kaufman Photography