Schwartz and Architecture's Box on a Rock house in California

Schwartz and Architecture's Box on a Rock house is perched above an expansive California valley

California firm Schwartz and Architecture has completed a minimal and self-contained residence that looks out over the Sonoma Valley (+ slideshow).

The small home, only 2,000 square feet (200 square metres), sits at the top of an exposed promontory.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Named Box on a Rock, the residence was completed in 2015. Budget and siting limitations led the firm to design the home as a compact volume, with the starting point to create the most economical form possible.

"The home becomes a lone outpost settling the higher ground of the larger natural site – a literal box on a rock," said the studio.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Complex site conditions required the three-bedroom structure to sit on concrete pier foundations, which encompassed much of the project's budget.

Since resources to develop the three acre (1.21 hectare) site were unavailable, the architects designed the house as a self-contained unit that would provide a range of interior and exterior spaces.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Two outdoor spaces are included. Guests enter through a slightly sunken central courtyard that leads directly to the home's living room. Beyond it, on the western edge of the residence, a cantilevered deck provides sunset views into the valley.

These spaces were "strategically carved out of the diagrammatic box to ensure that over the course of the day, temperate options for both sun and shade are always available", said the architects.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Both spaces are sheltered by roof overhangs that provide shade but permit cross-breezes for cooling.

Interior rooms are housed in two rectangular volumes, which lie symmetrically on either side of the courtyard.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

The northern side includes a bedroom, as well as kitchen and dining functions. Opposite this volume, two more bedrooms are laid out next to each other. Both are connected through the living room.

Floor-to-ceiling glazing provides the occupants with ample views, in addition to acting as the home's principal entrance point. From this space, visitors can access both wings of the building, as well as the cantilevered terrace.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Additionally, the architects installed doors leading directly to the courtyard in two of the bedrooms. In the third, another doorway leads to the terrace at the back of the house.

The local climate is sufficiently fair to allow the residents to circulate through all the spaces without having to be indoors.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

The building's bare exterior is clad in simple wooden siding that emphasises the geometric tweaks applied to the initial box form.

Inside, minimal furnishings and white finishes give the space a clean feeling. Each bedroom features its own bathroom and wardrobe, giving the inhabitants more privacy.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture

Schwartz and Architecture have also completed a residence that nests on top of Silicon Valley, also in California. The home was designed as a retirement retreat for an elderly client and their caretaker.

Photography is by Bruce Damonte.

Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture
Process diagrams – click for larger image
Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture
Site plan – click for larger image
Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture
Floor plan – click for larger image
Box on a Rock by Schwartz & Architecture
Long section – click for larger image