A Couple Carve Open a Working Sonoma Farmhouse to Savor the Surrounding Fields
“When the kitchen’s glass doors are open, it feels like you’re cooking in the vineyard,” says architect Christie Tyreus.
Architect Christie Tyreus had an unusual goal for this Northern California home: She wanted it to act almost like a sidekick to its surroundings.
“The location has everything: open space, views of the surrounding valley, hills, even a pond,” she says. “With so many natural features to appreciate, the architecture needed to follow, not lead.”
Tyreus’s clients, tech firm owner Mukesh Patel and wife Harsha, hired her to build something that would be distinct, but still appreciative of the area.
The couple’s 100-acre parcel is set in Sonoma—an area famous for its wines—and when they bought the property, the farm was already selling its produce to renowned restaurants in the Bay Area, including Chez Panisse, Cotogna, and Quince. In fact, chef Alice Waters dedicated her last cookbook to the head farmer, who decided to stay on when Mukesh and Harsha took over.
“The farm is known to be totally organic, with good soil, which is what the restaurant owners prefer,” Tyreus says.
It was clear that the farm needed to be intertwined with the home’s renovation—the couple told Tyreus that they wanted a “see-through house.” Essentially, this meant that the structure would have plenty of windows, and a layout that would naturally lead outdoors.
“The original design sketch was a very simple wood-glass-wood sandwich: a solid roof on top, glass throughout the middle, and an extensive wood deck on the bottom that would extend from all interior spaces out into the landscape,” Tyreus says. “We kept the footprint and the original roof forms, but subtracted most of the mass from the middle. This really gave our engineers lots to consider!”
“When the kitchen’s glass doors are open, it feels like you’re cooking in the vineyard,” Tyreus continues. “You can walk a few steps to harvest the herbs you need, or pick the vegetables for the evening’s meal.”
That’s not to say that this home is all looks, no substance. Mukesh and Harsha requested a kitchen fit for the chefs they work with, which meant that Tyreus and her team had to figure out a way to bring in storage without a lot of walls. Lower cabinetry does much of the heavy lifting, but there’s also a built-in cabinet in the living area and hidden storage in the fireplace to help. “We had to be very deliberate with how the kitchen drawers would accommodate everything, and designed extra food storage in the mudroom,” she adds.
The owners also didn’t want the home to be too big, so there’s an “activity barn” nearby where the extended family can play their beloved tennis and badminton out of the sun. Tyreus and her team outfitted it so that it doesn’t feel at all like a gym, too. “There’s a variety of spaces to watch the match around the court, a lounge, a bar, and an outdoor covered porch,” she says. “People love the space so much that the owners have started hosting community events and some weddings—including their daughter’s last year.” The third structure on the property, another farmhouse near the pond, holds supplies for the land.
As for the home’s exterior, Tyreus and the owners aimed to make it striking yet approachable. “I wanted something light and quiet to not overpower the farm landscape,” she says. They chose preweathered Accoya wood in a light shade, which contrasts the green hills and the black-hued shade of the activity barn nearby. The storage barn is painted white, so all three buildings have their own personality.
The one-year project wrapped up in 2021, and Mukesh and Harsha may add a guesthouse in the future. But for now, amid their 100 acres, their home and farm feel like a perfect match.
“The home balances modern building methods, like the sliding glass wall, with the traditional and more modest aspects of farming,” Tyreus says.