Construction required cutting into an existing retaining wall and, because the structure is built on a hillside overlooking the amphitheater, concrete piers were required to stabilize the foundation. Managing trucks making deliveries up the narrow driveway also required patience and planning.
The second level of the carriage house, currently outfitted as an office, has cathedral ceilings and large exposed-beam trusses. Partition walls with arched penetrations define spaces, which include a kitchen and space that is currently configured as an office for an assistant. The main space is designed as an office but could easily be a living room should the owner’s needs and the function of the carriage house change. A full bathroom is located on the lower level.
One side of the office/living room features an operable glass wall system that provides a large unobstructed opening to a deck overlooking the amphitheater. The gable ends of the space feature divided-lite windows, and skylights provide additional light. After the sun has set, a sophisticated lighting scheme conceived by a lighting designer shows off the architectural details of the carriage house. The lighted stair tower is a dramatic presence above the amphitheater.
“There was a lot of attention paid to the lighting design,” Alward says. “It was pretty carefully thought out.”
Likewise, a great deal of thought was given to details in the living/office space, including casework for built-in bookcases and inlaid patterns that have personal significance to the owner in the hardwood floor. Detailing also is evident in the stair tower and elsewhere. “We custom made the mouldings, so if you went from the existing house to the interior of the carriage house, it would look very similar,” Alward relates.
Exterior Fine Points
Outside, knee braces were cut with a band saw from large timbers to replicate those on the original house, and hand-carved details were added. “We don’t get a lot of jobs where we can get out wood-carving chisels and go to work,” Alward says.
The attention to detail extended to the stucco applied to the carriage house. The original home had pebbles embedded in the stucco to give it a unique texture, and the owner wanted to match that look. Descriptions of John Hudson Thomas’ work note that he was a master of combining materials on his exteriors.
“It’s the first time I’ve even seen a house with that kind of texture in stucco,” Alward explains.
“We did not have access to the material the original builder used,” he adds, “but we did find a substitute that is almost indistinguishable from it. During the final coat, the pebbles had to be pressed into the wet stucco by hand. I was worried about it from the beginning, but we pulled it off.”
Alward’s crew also rebuilt the stage of the amphitheater, which was suffering from dry rot, and installed exterior rails along paths leading to the back door of the carriage house. A substantial landscaping effort also was part of the project though Alward was not involved in that phase of the work.
“This was a great project for us,” Alward says. “We were very honored to have the opportunity. It’s a special looking building that really complements an existing structure and fits into the site in a lovely way.”