2023 RDAA | Architectural Details | A Mourning Dovecote | S^A | Schwartz and Architecture

The second home that Neal Schwartz, FAIA, designed for himself and his husband in 2012 functioned perfectly well until working there during the pandemic prompted thoughts of adding a studio—and eventually living there full time. But where to open the wall? With clerestories wrapping the public zone, the best option was to slip it under a 7-foot beam below the living room window. From there it takes wing, soaring to 18 feet and lit by a skylight hidden by the high angled ceiling. Looking around for rural precedents for the odd, tower-like space, Neal landed on the notion of a modern dovecote—an ode to the mourning doves he loves listening to.

The calm, chapel-like volume became a canvas to explore that story line. Gray laser-feathered metal roof shingles were fabricated at half the cost of a standing seam roof. Cast-bronze door handles, inspired by Alvar Aalto’s handle design for a Helsinki bookstore, were wrapped in leather strapping. And a sheer silk curtain between the house and studio was printed with patterns from Richard Barnes’ Murmur series, which captured starlings in flight. The jury applauded the project’s many thoughtful details. “I love the floor window—it’s a beautiful detail for a workspace,” said a judge, referring to the 12-foot-wide-by-30-inch-high window at the base of the canted back wall. At the top of the wall, built-in nesting boxes make good on the dovecote’s promise.


Architectural Details

S^A | Schwartz and Architecture
A Mourning Dovecote
Sonoma, California

Project Credits

Architect: Neal J. Z. Schwartz, S^A | Schwartz and Architecture, San Francisco

Builder: Brian Cutright, Cutright Construction, Sonoma, California

Interior designer: S^A | Schwartz and Architecture

Landscape architect: Totem Landscape Services, Sonoma, California

Structural engineer: iAssociates, Alameda, California

Project size: 380 square feet

Site size: 1 acre

Construction cost: Withheld

Photography: Douglas Sterling

Key Products

Cladding: Red cedar

Entry door locksets: Baldwin

Finishes: Plaster from Orit Yanai Studio (interior), Tadelakt plaster (exterior courtyard)

Flooring: DuroDesign Cork

Furniture: CRI / Herman Miller

Millwork: Custom English sycamore veneer

Roofing: Custom from Metal Sales

Roof windows: Custom from IDM Glass

Windows: Fleetwood