A WELL-DESIGNED BUILDING
can well be viewed as art, and one San Francisco
architect has found a way to combine art and
architecture to bring out the best of both. “I
like to explore the inherent qualities of carefully
edited materials for a more holistic architecture,” William Duff says.
In doing so, Duff, also the board chair at
Sonoma’s di Rosa art gallery and grounds, has
become a proponent of unusual residential and
commercial modern projects that close the gap
between design and art.
Recently, he restored what he calls a “
quintessential gabled barn,” a century old, in the
Napa Valley for noted contemporary art collectors and philanthropists Cindy and Howard
Rachofsky. Their 10,000-square-foot Richard
Meier–designed mansion in Dallas is where
much of their lauded art collection that has been
promised to the Dallas Art Museum resides year
round, but the Rachofskys like to spend summers (and reportedly New Year’s Eve) out west,
where the weather is clement near the coast.
For their seven-acre California outpost, amid
a vineyard and a large organic vegetable garden
dotted with some of their burgeoning collection,
including sculpture by the likes of British sculptor Richard Long and Korean designer Lee Hun
Chung, they asked for a modest dining pavilion,
within sight of the main house but closer to the
vines, where they could entertain guests.
Requiring only a minimalist aesthetic and the
flexibility to use the party venue for large or
small gatherings, they opted for a slatted wood
barn that could be thrown open or kept closed
depending on the crowd size and the weather.
Duff relocated the historic archetypal
building to its current site, completely
restored it and inserted two rectangular, steel-framed, mirror-clad pavilions inside. One is a
state-of-the-art catering kitchen and the other
an exercise gym.
The barn is now literally and figuratively
a “reflector of its surroundings,” the archi-
tect says. “The guiding principle for this
project was light.”
The mirrored pavilions are spaced far
enough apart to make room between them
for a very large dining table by New York’s
BDDW. Oversize hollow fiberglass lanterns by
Alan Knight hover overhead, creating a focal
point for the mostly muted palette of grays
inside, including bleached rift-sawn oak for
the service bar (hidden behind sliding doors
Top: Guests are treated to site-specific works scattered throughout the property, landscaped by Steve Arns,
including a circular work of concrete and white pebbles by Jacob Kassay and a ceramic sculpture by Lee Hun
Chung. Above: Three fiberglass and LED pendant lanterns designed by Alan Knight are repeated infinitely in the
opposing mirrored cabins. With its interior lights out, the gym, shown here, looks identical to the kitchen cabin.