Sheldon Gatehouse


A gated opening in a long dark wall marks the transition between the owner's urban life, the world of cars, work and frenetic activity, and the beauty, nature and serenity of the forest. The perch from which the owner enjoys this pristine world threads subtly and firmly through the forest and allows her to be a steward to the spirit of the place.

The long low wall of the building extends through the forest as a foil to the vertical trunks of the pine trees. As one passes through its front gate the house yields to the forest and opens to the meadow beyond. This gesture marks the symbolic transition from the trappings of urban life to the essential nature of the site.

Just inside the wall, a boardwalk runs the length of the project connecting two major living spaces, one interior and one exterior. The two spaces mirror one another, each with a fireplace and one wall that is open to the view of the forest meadow. Each living space accommodates the subtle differences between day and evening needs. In winter the interior living room becomes primary, with its broad hearth and views out onto the growing drifts of snow. During the milder months, the courtyard living space serves as the center of the home. Its deep overhangs protect the occupants from sun, rain and snow, and the exterior stainless steel fireplace warms them on cool evenings.

Because the site is wooded, remote, has a wide range of weather, and is not constantly occupied, exterior finishes are resilient and fire-resistant, and the roof is steeply sloped to shed snow. Shutters protect the windows and improve the home's energy efficiency while unoccupied. Each visit, the ritual of opening the shutters becomes part of the transition. Energy efficiency further benefits from hydronic heat in the exposed concrete floors. The building utilizes a dial up remote switch to warm up the home as the owner drives from the city to the site. Once she arrives, the well insulated home provides her comfort from which to view the woods and wildlife in any weather.

A delight of this house is that it does so much with so little. It is modestly proportioned but generous in volume so that it is comfortable whether it has a single visitor or welcomes a gathering.


2010 Design Award, Custom Residences Category
AIA Housing Award
2010 Honorable Mention, Indoor-Outdoor Living Category
Sunset-AIA Western Home Awards
2009 American Architecture Awards
The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Center for Architecture
2009 Merit Award, Custom Home Category
Residential Architect
2008 Citation Award
Wood Design Awards
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Related Links

External: The West's Best Homes: 2009-2010
External: Residential Architect Design Awards 2009 Winners