Designed to rise from the landscape as if it had been there from the beginning of time, Stonehaven is a 4,435-square-foot, zero-carbon footprint, cast-in-place stratified concrete, foam-core, single-family dwelling on 14 acres in the mountains east of San Diego in the old mining town of Julian, Calif. Yet nothing about this unique house says ancient.

Everything from its architectural features which include curved concrete walls cast in multicolored layers to its inspired form stylized to reference neighboring Vulcan Mountain, this one-of-a-kind home was designed to maximize the views of the desert, mountain, and surrounding forest.

To achieve the unique look of the house and build a fireproof structure, Stonehaven is constructed entirely of Type K, shrinkage-compensating concrete with a foam core made by Tri-D, then plastered on the inside. For structure, mass, and aesthetics, a few interior feature walls were also cast-in-place. The roofs were cast on top of Tri-D panels supported by scaffolding and then stamped with a subtle craggy stone impression for increased traction. The solid, slab-like concrete roof is a perfect venue for an evening. Because shrinkage-compensating concrete delivers large, virtually crackless expanses of unbroken concrete, there is no requirement for standard roofing material of any kind.

Architectural Features

Designed to maximize the commanding views available on the site, each bedroom in Stonehaven boasts windows facing in at least two directions: desert and mountain, or desert and forest. The solid concrete portico roof was cast-in-place with protruding veins of exposed rock, pockets of organic quartz crystals, and 300 fiber-optic lights completely invisible unless powered. The portico is a marvel of craftsmanship, formed and cast in compound curves, but without any visible forming marks.

For ease of construction, the trapezoidal and curved concrete roof of the tower was cast on the ground and lifted into place with a crane as were the front door frames and fire place mantle and surround. The curved, concrete kitchen island was also cast-in-place.

The front door and accompanying stained glass window were designed and crafted by famed San Diego artist, James Hubbell with careful allusions to the ethos of the rest of the house. The front door surrounds were constructed of carved tilt-up concrete, planar on the outside, but fluted on the inside.

The Great Room is the focal point of the house, 1,500 square feet in size with a 22-foot high ceiling. In order to span as much as 34 feet, the structure was designed with curved concrete beams cast-in-place and softened using rigid-foam insulation to create a ribbed effect.

To maximize the acoustic qualities of the Great Room (the owner is a musician), none of the walls are parallel. A remote-controlled, in-wall sound system was also installed without visible speakers. To reduce the scale of the Great Room, a library was added in the center of the room by cantilevering a 10 x24-foot, smooth plaster cloud out of the neighboring concrete feature wall. The cloud is carefully perforated to allow light in from above and is accented with fiber-optic ‘starlight’ to match the portico outside.

The main portion of the house is connected to a downstairs garage carefully fitted into the original landscape of the lot (in order to minimize grading) by a 40-foot-long cast-in-place stratified concrete tunnel with LED lighting. The roof of the garage serves as a deck as well accessible at ground level from the southeast corner of the house.

To allow minimal visible support, the tower stairwell treads were welded directly to the tank. The lowest treads in the concrete ‘rotunda’ at the basement level are cast-in-place concrete but also cantilevered out from the wall to appear suspended in midair. As a nod to the intense night skies of Julian, the tower stairway is lit with random-patterned, custom-made, aluminum and crystal, LED lights embedded in the concrete treads so that they shine both up and down.

The floors in the entire house are charcoal colored concrete, ground to expose aggregate and then sealed and polished. There is no fixed carpeting, hardwood, tile, or resilient flooring.