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To understand the Grouf House you need to understand the budget; for almost every design decision made was driven by budgetary considerations. Northern California is one of the most expensive places to build in the world. Most of the houses we design tend to cost in the range of $800 per square foot. We built the Grouf House for slightly over $200 per square foot.

The only way to accomplish that is to use building systems that dramatically reduce labor - in this case we employed metal building technology that is more typical of industrial/commercial buildings. The steel structure and metal panel exterior of this building went up in about three weeks, as opposed to probably four months for stick framing. The metal panels were pre-finished on the interior and we left them exposed, eliminating the need for interior finishes on the exterior walls, such as drywall and paint. The concrete slab foundation was left exposed as the lower level finish floor. And the structural steel framework was painted but otherwise left exposed as an architectural expression of the design. Wherever possible we eliminated the need for finishes.

The site was an already level graded pad with extraordinary views of Sonoma County. The center of the building is almost totally glass in response to that view, but all of the rooms in the house have beautiful views out to the varied valley landscape. In many of the rooms we used sliding glass doors (with the lockset height modified) as the windows, in response to the scale of the building.

The original design called for a steel trellis to completely encase the building, which would have provided a green façade that would shade the structure and frame the views. Budget constraints did not allow this to be built, but hopefully at some point this element will be added to complete the overall composition.

Healdsburg, CA | 2004


Nick Grouf

LD Team

Ben Frombgen

Project Team

Dick Murphy

Press and awards