James Gwise + Associates

Location: Woodside, CA
Completion Date: 2014

Seeds Cottage takes its name from the native wildflower seeds that the owners spread across the site in the early phases of the project. The owner’s brief called for a multi-purpose structure that would be used as both a design studio and weekend retreat and would replace the existing, dilapidated 3 bedroom house on the site.

Nestled in a grove of redwoods overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, the site offered a unique opportunity to create an intimate and embracing environment with strong connections to nature.

The Cottage takes advantage of its location at the crest of a hill with a pair of breathtaking views that greets visitors at the entry: westward the broad expanse of the Pacific Ocean; northward a view of the San Francisco Bay and the East Bay Hills.




The design organizes the spaces as a rhythm of served and service spaces. The first service zone incorporates a kitchenette, bathroom, and storage and serves both Studios. In the North Studio, an expansive floor to ceiling bookcase anchors the south wall. In the South Studio, the storage wall includes a murphy bed and storage for clothing.

A second service zone separates the South Studio from the garage and houses utilities, service area, and laundry. The conditioned garage provides space for three cars and can be used as an auxiliary work space.



The considered application of material reinforces the strong connections to the site. Generous use of wood on the exterior and interior integrates the house seamlessly with the surrounding grove of redwoods. Exterior redwood siding transitions to built-in bookcases and wall surfaces at the kitchenette and bathroom in the interior.

Insulated glazing framed by minimal black steel complements the redwood. Black steel is also integrated into a suspended drip irrigation system in the Garden Studio, the exterior trellis, and portions of the garage interior.



The architectural expression of the Garden Studio is minimal, consisting of a glass enclosure covered by a flat roof resting on a pair of slender black columns. The concrete floor slab transitions to an interior planting zone. Large stone slabs traverse the planting zone, leading out of the studio into the surrounding landscape, softening the distinction between interior and exterior.



Sustainability is an important aspect of the cottage. Harvested from a dirigible hanger at nearby Moffett Field, the reclaimed redwood is integrated into an energy efficient rainscreen assembly. Other sustainable features include a zoned hydronic radiant heating system with concrete thermal mass to store heat. Spray foam insulation is used in the roof assembly to create a tight envelope and achieve high degree of insulation. Natural ventilation is provided by operable windows that are supplemented by a whole house fan.