Prentiss Balance Wickline Architects: Big Fir Vineyard is a single-family residence in the hills of a designated wine grape-growing region in the Willamette Valley. Formed from the topography and agricultural plan of the site, this small home is carefully designed to both take in the surrounding landscape and become a part of it. Indoor-outdoor elements visually extend the interior spaces, and the roof shape mimics the incline of the site. Big Fir is comfortably nestled into a newly planted vineyard, oriented to harmonize with the rows of vines. It was only by chance that the clients purchased the land; they came across the lot while visiting family in the area and saw its potential as a vineyard – something they had always hoped for.
The simple parti of the home is derived from both the slope of the land and the linear overlay of the vines. These two patterns -- the topography and the vine rows -- are set at 45 degrees to each other, with the grapevines planted on a four-foot interval running north to south, the optimal sun orientation for growing. The main axis of the home is aligned along the contours of the site and on the bias of the vineyard pattern, allowing for varied views of the cascading vineyard below. Connection to the vineyard is emphasized with angled adjustments to the plan. At the edge of the steepest slope, the main bedroom is turned to look down through the rows of vines.
The foot of a custom bed frame sits flush against the wall, with a large operable window that gives the sensation of sleeping outdoors. The vineyard pattern is also the basis for two notches in the floorplan. One forms the main entry vestibule, along which a three-sided wood-burning fireplace becomes the centerpiece of the living area. The other notch is an inward cut which subtly separates the living area from the kitchen/dining and creates additional bench seating on both the interior and exterior.
To mitigate heat from intense summer sun, clerestory windows on the southern façade and translucent panels above the outdoor pavilion filter light while still keeping the space bright. Board and batten cedar siding takes a note from the agrarian region and forms a screen around the home, tempering sunlight at the interior workroom. This siding also gives privacy to the shower in the main bathroom, which opens completely to the outdoors. Additional shading is brought to the site by the planted trees, especially the large oak tree in the center of the circular driveway.
Materials were carefully chosen to blend in and echo the surrounding landscape on both the exterior and interior. Concrete floors are tinted with color to match the Jory soil of the area; cedar beams, milestone plaster walls, and dark soapstone countertops reflect the colors of the site. Multiple patios step down along the slope of the land, guided by wood screens and colored concrete retaining walls. The outdoor pavilion features a large outdoor fireplace, making it the perfect gathering place for dining amongst the vines. Like the rows of individual grapevines joining together, Big Fir’s multi-layered spaces are at once independent from each other and yet fully integrated.