Down to Earth: A hill-hugging residence bucks the norm in Marin County.
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Most houses in architect Scott Lee’s neighborhood in Mill Valley, California, are circus performers. These Craftsman-era residences balance on stilts and skirts, to avoid the precipitous conditions endemic to this canyon town. Yet for Hillside House, Lee stacked three stories of living space on top of a subterranean garage, and all floors are partly set into a steep slope.
Lee, president of SB Architects, and his wife had begun searching for a family home in 2005. Existing properties didn't make the cut, so the pair set its sights on open land with equal rigor. “Our goal was to live close enough to town to avoid driving excessively, yet also have a bit of sun and views to San Francisco,” he says. With no big lots within walking distance of Mill Valley proper, the couple settled on an “impossibly difficult” 120-by-80-foot in-town lot featuring a 49 percent grade…
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