House Envy: A Cantilevering Creekside Retreat

A glass-walled addition to a California cabin affords a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding woods and adjacent creek.

Amy Alper Creekside Cabin


In California wine country, a house-hunting couple struck upon a cozy, cedar-shingled cabin. Encompassing 960 square feet, the home sat nestled in a grove of trees, just a stone’s skip removed from Mark West Creek. Taken by the location and the many modest charms of the cabin, the house-hunters decided to buy the place, fully aware of its main design drawback. So before getting too comfortable, they brought in Sonoma-based architect Amy Alper to help devise a solution.

Built in the 1930s, the cabin originally served as the cooking quarters for a family who preferred to camp on the property. In the years since, subsequent owners had modernized the structure with a bedroom and bathroom, turning it into an all-season retreat. But while the cabin grew in size, it never grew to embrace its unique site. Except for a window situated above the kitchen sink, the layout afforded no views to the adjacent creek, the feature that makes the land so special.

Amy Alper Creekside Cabin - Living Room


For the architect Alper, the challenge was to open up the cabin to its surroundings, without sacrificing the rustic feel, all while heeding a local regulation that limited new construction only to areas previously disturbed. She presented to the homeowners what turned out to be a winning concept. Where a seldom-used, beetle-damaged deck had been, Alper proposed a double-height, glass-enclosed living room addition that would cantilever from the building toward the creek.

The new steel-and-glass addition basically wraps around the wood-framed original. What had once been a section of the shingled exterior now divides the kitchen from the living room, imbuing the sleek new space with a sense of the home’s history. And though the project only added about 300 square feet, the floor-to-ceiling windows manage to erode the distinction between indoors and out, seeming to join the cozy cabin with all the forest acres beyond the glass.

Amy Alper Creekside Cabin - Exterior


For more information, visit Amy A. Alper, Architect.