2023 RDAA | Custom Accessory or Outbuilding | Leit House | S^A|Schwartz and Architecture

The site’s geological formations became a metaphorical motif for this little black dress of a dwelling. Its fire-resistant cementitious stucco, blackened cedar, and sculptural metal roof were inspired by the wildfire-scarred landscape strewn with volcanic rocks. “I remember going to pick one up and being surprised at how lightweight it was,” says Neal J. Z. Schwartz, FAIA. “We wanted to reference the rocks, the history of the Nuns Fire, and the chance it would come through again.”

Conceived as a multifunctional slab-on-grade pavilion set along a service core, the building contains two bedrooms and a bath, a compact kitchen and living space, and a sheltered outdoor cooking area. Folding glass wall systems stack neatly against the charred-wood partial walls, throwing open the building to the wild setting. That openness is balanced by a dark, massive roof with deep overhangs that protect the occupants from the powerful sun. Framed with prefabricated wood trusses—a conventional building system manipulated to creative effect—its floating appearance hints at the rocks’ paradoxical qualities of being heavy and light at the same time. 

The jury was captivated by the concept and execution. “The roofline has a slight bend in it that’s working with the landscape,” a judge observed. “The basalt is an interesting part of it, and it’s very sculptural.”


Custom Accessory or Outbuilding

S^A | Schwartz and Architecture

Leit House
Sonoma County, California

Project Credits

Architect: Neal J. Z. Schwartz, FAIA, principal in charge; Christopher W. Baile, project architect; Ania Burlinska, project designer,  S^A | Schwartz and Architecture, San Francisco

Builder: Eames Construction, Petaluma, California

Interior designer: S^A | Schwartz and Architecture

Landscape architect: Totem Landscape Services, Sonoma, California

Structural engineer: Framework Engineering, Oakland, California

Project size: 816 square feet

Site size: 39 acres

Construction cost: Withheld

Photography: Douglas Sterling

Key Products

Bath ventilation: Panasonic

Cabinetry: ApplePly maple

Cooktop/range: Bosch

Dishwasher: Bosch

Faucets: Brizo

Home control: Lutron

Refrigerator: Bosch

Roof truss system: All Truss

Sinks: Franke, Nameeks’ Sacarabeo

Tile: Fireclay, Heath

Washer/dryer: Bosch

Windows: Andersen Windows

Window wall systems: NanaWall