Discussing 969 Via Roble with Jeff Zimmerman & Michael Muscardini

Architect Jeff Zimmerman and Builder Michael Muscardini have collaborated on an ambitious work of luxurious modernity in the coveted Kenwood area. Inspired by the serenity and stillness of nature, 969 Via Roble offers seamless indoor/outdoor living and sophisticated design. We heard from Jeff and Michael about some of their sources of inspiration and the collaboration process. See below!

Jeff, how did you get your start as an architect?

Maybe seeing Sea Ranch as a teenager. I liked to draw, was dyslexic and had an artistic Mother who should have been an Architect. In studying Architecture, I enjoyed a discipline where there was no right or wrong answer.

Michael, how did you get your start as a builder?

I graduated from arts school California college of arts in 1972. In 1978, I got my contractors license and created a company called Creative Spaces, I sold it in 2004 after 27 years. It’s still going strong and I love the process of building. When you have a great team to work with it makes all the difference. This project actually was a phoenix rising and it rose out of the ashes of the previous house that was burned in 2017.

What were some sources of inspiration when designing and building this home?

JZ: I had just seen Richard Nuetra’s Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, it was amazing and found the site similar with all rock-out cropping’s. This home shares the in and out relationships, such a must in California living.

MM: 969 Via Roble is in Northern California and I think Northern California really benefits from the climate we have here. That opportunity to do indoor outdoor experience and this home has that in spades (you can say that now). After building many homes throughout the greater Bay area, this was the first one for me where we followed a 2 x 2 layout. We used the Italian porcelain tiles – they are fantastic…they go outside to the inside to the outside – very modern.

What was the collaboration process like when constructing 969 Via Roble?

JZ: Michael is a Golden Retriever – he gushes collaboration, if there isn’t a squirrel around. His soul is artistic, and he loves the process. We did his and Kate’s home a few years back and it was so much fun, we did it again. He’s a detail nut and loves sourcing the exquisite materials. Austin Montanari, Project Architect, from our office fit right in, adding to Michael’s Italian roots – it’s a pizza.

MM: This was the second home project I had built with Jeff and his great team. The first one was our own personal house just about 15 minutes west of the Sonoma Plaza up in the hills has a nice view. But the partnership with Jeff and his team on this project was fantastic. I got to work with Austin who’s a great guy – talented architect, no ego, and total commitment. It makes the whole process enjoyable.

How did natural elements play a role in the design and building process?

JZ: The site tells you everything, it’s how you acknowledge and engage it, that makes it special. The home needed to be a strong simple form to fit atop these large rocks – modernism is a great partner with a natural site like we had.

MM: This site was just strewn with basalt boulders the size of Volkswagens. We were replacing a house that was burned in 2017 so all the trees had been burned and we carefully pruned them up to 10 or 12 feet off the ground and they’re all coming back great. My inspiration was the big boulders and the existing trees with vast views. To cap everything off, I was inspired to put in 12,000 ft.² of new sod. The lawn really makes a difference during the heat of the day, you can walk around barefoot and enjoy the evaporation off the lawn in the shade of the trees.

What are some of the ways that sustainable design was used in this home?

MM: This is JZ all the way……..

JZ: In California it’s pretty easy, our codes are the best, we have to build green and have strict energy codes, its orientation after that. As far as solar orientation, in Wine Country we hide from the West, deal with the South and try to open to the East and North, summers are hot.

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