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This is the house that got him into Harvard.

This is the house that got him into Harvard

What does a political economics major do after graduating from U.C. Berkeley? He builds a carefully detailed, open-feeling, 800-square-foot house that seems perfectly wedded to its sloping, woodsy setting in coastal California. At least, that's what Charles Barnett did.

After working in commercial real estate for several years, Barnett decided to try his hand at building something for himself, though he had had limited construction experience. He quit his job and devoted a year to the new venture. Halfway through, he decided to apply to architecture school: on the strength of the newly finished California cabin, Harvard accepted him.

Barnett had three goals: site the cabin carefully, keep it small but open, and make it simple without being plain. To disturb the oak- and pine-studded ridge as little as possible, he designed the structure as a sort of meandering staircase.

Like indoor terraces, the major rooms spill down the slope in two directions from a top level comprised of kitchen and bedroom. The dining level, which doubles as entry, drops three steps below the kitchen; the 14-foot-tall living room is another three steps below the entry.

In the living room, sandstone paving and an overscaled concrete fireplace-- made with sand brought from a nearby breach and mixed and poured on the site-- create a strong outdoor feeling, belying the room's diminutive size.

For a feeling of openness, Barnett used built-ins to save floor space and half-walls to imply separation of rooms. Wood for the fireplace gets stacked in bins under the built-in window seats. The partition near the front door contains a fold-down, desk. When the sliding wall between kitchen and bedroom is open, those two spaces flow together.

Decks off both bedroom and entry visually anchor the structure to its setting.

At the back of the house, attached like a sort of saddlebag, are storage areas, an unfinished room used as a workshop, and a mud-room entry, where coats and boots are kept.

Photo: Pull-down desk turns dining area near entry into study at short notice

Photo: Compact rooms open to each other or to the outside to gain illusion of space. Bedroom and kitchen are three steps above dining area, from which three more steps go down to living room
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Charles Barnett
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1988
Words:382
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