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Mork-Ulnes Architects Designs A Stylish 38 SQM Guesthouse in California’s Hills

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

Nestled on a steep hillside property in Marin County, California, the Crest guesthouse and rental unit is a masterpiece crafted by Mork-Ulnes Architects. To maximize space and adhere to fire danger regulations, the architects ingeniously repurposed the foundation of an old garage, constructing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on its exact footprint. The building’s roofline, with its sharp angles, beautifully mirrors the slope of the site, while a clever flip in the roof creates a delightful punched window in the loft, offering a picturesque view of the surrounding trees.

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

Casper Mork-Ulnes, the visionary behind this project, explains that their primary goal was to create a fire-resistant structure within the constraints of their tools and budget. This led to the absence of roof projections, the use of cement board for exterior cladding and roofing, and the incorporation of metal windows and doors. Despite these limitations, the architects managed to design a stunning front deck that takes full advantage of the mild California climate, providing additional outdoor space.

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

In terms of spatial layout, Mork-Ulnes employed a flexible programming approach, making every square meter count. With a mere 38 square meters to work with, the team had to think creatively and ensure that every surface served a purpose. This unique approach, which Mork-Ulnes refers to as “Swiss-army knife functionality,” adds an intriguing twist to the project. For instance, a rolling kitchen island can be effortlessly moved in or outside as needed, while a hidden murphy bed seamlessly folds down at night for a comfortable sleep.

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

The loft area, featuring a window overlooking the trees and the living space below, can be reached via a ladder that can be folded into the wall. The bathroom is divided into two smaller sections – one containing a toilet and sink, and the other a forest-green tiled shower room with a glass door leading out to the tree-covered hillside.

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

Emphasizing the importance of space and light, the architect ensured that, despite its small size, the Crest guesthouse still provides a sense of openness for its occupants by “allowing light to filter through the structure to naturally brighten the small dwelling throughout the day. High clerestory windows facing the hillside, along with expansive sliding doors that bring in light from the deck and extend the living area towards the outdoor view,” as stated by Casper Mork-Ulnes. The Crest Guesthouse is currently serving as a vacation retreat for the owners while their main residence undergoes renovations.

Crest Guesthouse, Marin County, USA / Mork-Ulnes Architects

The Crest guesthouse and rental unit is a testament to the architects’ ingenuity and their ability to balance functionality with aesthetics. By embracing the challenges posed by the steep hillside and wooded context, Mork-Ulnes Architects have created a truly remarkable space that harmoniously blends with its surroundings.

Image courtesy of Bruce Damonte