A MODERN ST. HELENA
HILLSIDE HOUSE DEFIES
WINE COUNTRY AND
AND YET FITS IN.
BY ZAHID SARDAR
PHOTOGRAPHS BY CESAR RUBIO
A wine country house by Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction
— conceived in the digital clouds, so to speak — is embedded in
solid rock that is left exposed in the home’s concrete back court.
The naturalistic plantings are by landscape designer Randy Thueme.
A lap pool abutting the house makes it seem like a houseboat.
MIKE NEIL, A MICROSOFT EXECUTIVE
living in Seattle, contacted San Francisco architect Jim Zack
in part to prove how easy cloud computing — Neil’s specialty
— and the digital sphere make it for people to work together
at a distance.
Hundreds of miles away, Zack was enlisted to visit a
15-acre St. Helena hillside lot Neil was interested in and
vet it for a potential pied-à-terre for Neil and his wife, a
Bay Area native who, like her husband, frequently works
in Silicon Valley. The undeveloped property, although quite
scrubby, had tempting enticements to build on its highest
ridge and the architect soon devised some ideas to capitalize
on its valley views.
“It was not a normal design process,” Zack, of the firm
Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction, says. But Neil was
an experienced client who had done extensive renovations in
Seattle and knew how to read the digital drawings he received
and then counter them with ideas of his own.