Highcliff Residence

Santa Ana, California


A new 5,600 square foot steel and wood framed hillside residence composed of 4 bedrooms, an office, family/game room and 4-1/2 baths. The amenities include an infinity-edge pool, spa with spillovers, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. The attached garage and entry walkway form interior courtyards with water features and gardens.

Site Conditions:   

The project is situated in the hills of Cowan Heights, not far from the city of Santa Ana, California and the Peters Canyon Reservoir. The steeply-sloped, heavily-wooded panhandle lot is surrounded by several single family residential properties.  It was once used as a grazing pasture for horses and contained a stable. The owner subdivided the property and sold the parcel to our client.  The site’s new construction prompted the installation of a new sewer line that will service not only this site, but also numerous surrounding neighbors up to the street above. 

Design Concept:    

The natural contours of the site drove the design. A long, narrow procession up the driveway from the street slowly unfolds to expose the house and the nature of its design. The cantilevering floor plates and masses present a sense of weightlessness upon the site. However, moving toward the back of the site, one can see how the house is anchored into the hillside.  As the design encircles itself, it forms intimate courtyards that blend into each other. As the visitor walks through these private courtyards to the entry, their view is compressed momentarily, only to expand again as they enter the main public space of the house. The soaring ceiling height and use of natural materials in the main living space are reminiscent of the surrounding trees. Throughout the project, exterior materials are consistently brought into the house to blur the distinction between interior and exterior.  The exterior materials are used to define the separate massing elements. While there is a distinction between these masses, the cladding materials are compatible with each other and with their natural surroundings.  

There are three volumes to the architecture. The hierarchy of volumes defines their function as it relates to public and private spaces. The largest and most public volume is the Living Room, Dining Room and Office. It is composed mainly of harder, more durable materials such as composite metal siding, concrete/stone floors, and wood-paneled ceilings. This volume is meant to withstand heavy traffic and give the most expansive overview of the house. The second and more semi-public volume is the Kitchen, Guest Bedrooms, and Guest Baths. This volume is composed of slightly softer materials such as plaster, deep-colored wood wall panels, and more intricate detailing. This volume ramps up toward the view and is intersected by the more public volume. The third volume contains the Master Bedroom and Bath. Being the most private of the three volumes, it is comprised of soft-wood siding, plush carpet, soothing lighting, warm-wood cabinetry and serene stone finishes.  These three volumes are woven together by one lower roof plane.   The overlaps of these volumes allow vast amounts of indirect light to enter the spaces.