Introduction to Casa Arata
In the wee hours of October 9, 2017, our community was awakened to a strange, orange glow in the north eastern sky and the sounds of sirens. By dawn, the fast-moving wildfire (dubbed the Tubbs Fire) which started late the night before, had already passed through Larkfield, over Fountaingrove, and enveloped Coffey Park–leveling everything in its path. Over 5,000 homes and businesses were destroyed, with many of our employees, customers, and friends being victims. Since then, our county has endured even more heartache and the loss of hundreds of more homes to the Kincaid Fire, and more recently the Walbridge and Glass Fires.
Now, exactly three years later, the Great Rebuild is well underway, with Coffey Park nearing the finish line of completing construction. However, many other neighborhoods still have more work to do because they faced additional challenges—such as replacing water and gas lines—before construction could begin.
One casualty of the Tubbs Fire was the childhood home of Kimberly Arata, wife of our General Manager, Ryan Arata. When Kim’s parents decided not to rebuild, she and Ryan bought the lot and set to work to build a dream house for their young family. But this wouldn’t be just any house. Not only did they go for a modern-minimalist style, but they chose to use as many products as possible from Healdsburg Lumber Company and Hudson Street Design. They also set a goal of meeting the clean energy standards set by Sonoma Clean Energy—which they exceeded by being about 40% more energy efficient than the standard energy efficient home.
Come along on a journey with the Arata Family and Healdsburg Lumber as we document the process, products, perks, problems, and professionals involved in (re)building a home.
Though the Tubbs Fire raged through Sonoma County back in October 2017, work on the Arata House did not begin until a year and a half later in May 2019.
First, the property had to be cleared of rubble and debris left from the fire. This process couldn’t even begin until the fire was completely out and the area was deemed safe enough for debris removal teams to access the neighborhood with their equipment. Due to the widespread damage, there was quite a waitlist for their services.
Once the lot was cleared, Ryan set to work designing his dream home. Though he had hoped to start building right away, engineering changes and permit delays meant the Aratas didn’t get the final okay until January 2019—complications that many fire victims faced. And then came the torrential rains of winter 2019, delaying the commencement of building even further. The rains eventually ended and then they waited for the ground to dry out.
And then, at long last, in May 2019, the foundation was staked out…
In April 2019, after readying the land for construction to begin, the retaining wall in the backyard was poured. It’s French gray, hard-troweled with a smooth finish, expertly completed by Eddie’s Concrete in Healdsburg. In addition to the retaining wall protecting the backyard from the hillside, it will double as seating with a floating thermally modified white ash bench surrounding a fire-pit. One end of the bench overlooks a koi pond.
The fence along the back of the property (cypress with horse fencing) also went in early on with the hope that by the time the house is finished, ivy will grow up the fence to create a more private backyard. Unfortunately, the neighborhood deer had something to say about that..
The next step was to lay out the underground plumbing which was done by our friends at Eddinger Plumbing in Healdsburg. May wrapped up with Plum Electric (also in Healdsburg) installing the temporary power needed during construction, as well as the outlets that will eventually be in the floor of the first level of the house.
Before work could begin on the foundation, the backflow water system had to be installed. The first plumbing company contacted quoted four times what it should cost—an unfortunately common obstacle faced by fire victims trying to rebuild. Happily, the next call was to CheckRite Backflow Services in Santa Rosa who not only did a fantastic job, but also quoted and charged an appropriate amount. We highly recommend it!
At long last the foundation began. The soil in this neighborhood is a hard clay which typically means driving pillars deep into the ground for a traditional slab foundation. This can be difficult and costly. The alternative? A WaffleMat Foundation! WaffleMat is a foundation forming system that works by creating a pattern of voids on the underside of concrete foundation slabs that allow for the expansion and contraction of the soil without lifting or cracking the foundation. When concrete is poured over the Waffle-boxes, it forms deep I-beams in two directions that support the structure directly on the soil.
After laying a protective sheet, the Waffle-boxes are laid out in a grid pattern and secured in place with metal connectors. The team from WaffleMat was able to complete this process in one day! Everyone was quite surprised to find the boxes out of alignment the next morning—especially since once secured, it takes considerable strength to move them. It turns out that a small tornado (as witnessed by a neighbor) made its way down the hill and directly through the Waffle-boxes the night before—pushing many of them out of place. Fortunately, Ryan was able to line everything back up in a few hours in time for the post tension installers.
In keeping with the modern/industrial design aesthetic, the finished Arata House will have polished concrete flooring on the first story. Concrete is notoriously cool and heating an open floor plan with a traditional heating system would be costly and not at all energy-efficient. However, a radiant/hydronic heating system would not only do a superior job of heating the house, it would also meet Sonoma Clean Power‘s clean energy standards.
A basic hydronic heating system consists of a water heater that pumps hot water through a heat emitter. (In this case, the emitter will be tubing laid out in a grid pattern within the floor.) This heating system has become increasingly popular due not only to its efficiency, but also its low noise level and added humidity. The radiant heating system also allows for “zoning” of the home so each room can be calibrated separately to the desired temperature of the occupants. Additionally, the system provides the house with hot water, and acts as an AC when run in reverse.
After the WaffleMat boxes were laid and secured, it was time to install the tubing for the radiant heat system. With the expertise of Rogers Radiant Heating & Plumbing in Windsor, the tubing was laid out over the waffle-boxes and wire-tied to the rebar.
Now that the WaffleMat has been laid, the Radiant Heat system installed, and pipes and wiring positioned, it was finally time to pour concrete! Due to the size of the job and the desired outcome, pouring the foundation required two concrete companies and two teams of skilled workers from Eddie’s Quality Concrete in Healdsburg and Carm’s Custom Concrete to complete the job. It took 14 cement trucks working simultaneously for six hours to pour all of the concrete. John from John’s Concrete even came out of retirement to assist!
As concrete began filling the foundation frame, teams immediately set to work hand-troweling the surface for a smooth finish before the concrete dried. Because the concrete will eventually become the main floor, it was imperative that the surface was smooth and even. The concrete was even colored to match the retaining wall in the backyard to ensure a cohesive look throughout the property.
A few days later, before the concrete was completely dry, the post-tension installers returned to finish their work. Using incredibly powerful machinery, they pulled the blue tension cords within the concrete as tightly as possible then secured them in place. This, combined with the benefits of the WaffleMat foundation, will prevent cracks from forming as the concrete dries. This will make for a beautiful floor.
With the foundation poured and covered with a curing blanket, it was time to start framing the exterior. Instead of a traditional wood frame, this house is built using Fox Blocks Insulated Concrete Forms. The forms are rectangular blocks that stack and fit together like Legos. The sides are made of a thick foam and are supported by a plastic frame. They are light-weight and the foam is easy to cut through, meaning that cutting out window and door frames is simple. The first row is held in place by the rebar in the foundation. It only took about 40 man-hours to put together the first floor.
Once all of the Insulated Concrete Forms (or ICF) are in place, the door and window openings are capped off with a Fox Buck which closes off any openings and will later help provide a tight seal. With the first floor walls built, and temporary bracing in place, concrete is poured into the center of the blocks creating a 6-inch thick wall insulated by the foam. The concrete and foam combination slows thermal flow to almost a complete halt, ensuring that the house will meet Sonoma Clean Power‘s clean energy standards. As a bonus, the concrete will work to protect the home should another fire sweep through. After the first story was done, the floor for the second story was framed before the second story walls were built in the same manner as the first. It’s starting to look like a house!
Later, siding will be secured directly to the Fox Blocks—as will drywall on the interior. The aforementioned plastic frame of the ICF acts as studs at even 8-inch increments, taking the guesswork out of hanging pictures! Though the Fox Blocks system was pricier up front, the cost savings in minimal heating and air-conditioning bills will more than make up for it. As California building codes continue to move toward energy efficiency, rules regarding insulation are likely to get stricter, and Fox Block systems will become the norm.
As you’ll recall, this home is a rebuild as a result of the 2017 Tubbs Wildfire. So I’m sure you can imagine the fear experienced in October 2019 by the Aratas and their neighbors when another wildfire (dubbed the Kincade Fire) threatened our community once again. And while many homes were destroyed in that fire, too, it was farther north and firefighters were ultimately able to stop its spread.
“Fire weather” or “fire season” (as we now call autumn) consists of extremely strong winds that whip over the dry hills. These winds were strong enough to toss the top rows of Fox Blocks off before concrete could be poured into the second story walls! Happily, as we learned last week, the blocks are easy to work with so it only took a few hours to get everything put back in place. Once the second story was properly braced and had scaffolding around the perimeter (and after several rain-delays), concrete was poured—meaning we now have four complete walls!
With the walls up, it was time to put the glulam in place. The design of the home requires one 52 ft beam that stretches the entire length of the house. With a 24 ft wall on one end, it was necessary to use a crane to lift the glulam. The team at Precision Crane expertly navigated the power poles and lines to get the glulam in place. The beam—like the smaller glulams supporting the second floor—will remain exposed as a stylistic feature of the finished house.
By now it was late December and the threat of rain loomed. With a typical shingled roof, the roof would be put on as soon as walls are up. However, this house will have a metal roof which means that things like plumbing, vents and gutters need to be in place first. I-joists were secured to the main glulam before Advantech’s Zip System Sheathing was installed as a base layer for the metal roof. After being sealed with a special tape, the sheathing creates a water-proof and air-tight seal meaning that framing could safely begin on the interior.
After several delays due to the rainy weather, Ryan set to work framing the interior in January 2020. If you look back at the floor plan in the Arata House Introduction, you’ll see that the interior has a very open layout. The ground level is almost entirely one great room, in which half of it opens to the second story cathedral ceilings, while the kitchen is directly beneath the second floor. Because of this, framing was relatively easy and Ryan finished in just a few days.
Next it was time to install the windows. Due to the exterior walls being about 12 inches thick, the windows were positioned in the middle and trim was added for aesthetics. In order to ensure an air-tight and water-proof seal around the windows and trim, Henry Company‘s Liquid Air-Bloc was used before installing the windows.
The Aratas chose to exclusively use Andersen Windows + Doors for the windows in their home due to the selection of energy efficient options they offer. In fact, Andersen was the first window manufacturer to be named an ENERGY STAR National Window Partner of the Year in 1999. All of the non-operable picture windows, including the clerestory windows in the great room, are part of the Andersen 100 Series. The operable windows are part of the 400 Series, and all are casement windows which offer a tight seal—ensuring the home is energy efficient.
As framing was wrapping up, the exterior doors were installed. The front door is a Simpson Clear Edge door, which features glass panels that extend to the edge. In keeping with the home’s minimalist, modern feel, Hudson Street Design’s Door Shop manufactured the door as a pivot door. In order to do this and create a weather-proof seal, the Door Shop built in custom moulding around the door.
At the rear of the house, our Service Department installed a Fleetwood Windows & Doors Series 3050 Hidden Threshold Multi-Slide & Pocket Door System. The door was purchased at one of our famous Boneyard Sales—which was great because it was hugely discounted. The downside is that items come “as is”, which in this case meant that the locks were on the wrong side of the door. Fortunately, our Service Department was once again able to solve the problem: they disassembled the door and swapped out the locks. The doors are 8ft tall and 8.5ft wide and slide to reveal a 17ft opening to the backyard from the great room. The wall on either side of the door was built out to create a pocket to conceal the door.
With the interior properly sealed up, Ryan spent the spring completely wiring and plumbing the house. As a reminder, the drywall will be laid directly on the ICF foam on the exterior walls, so the wiring and piping could not be on top of the foam. Ryan got creative and used an inexpensive chainsaw to slice into the foam and tucked the wires and pipes in.
Because the house doesn’t have an attic space, Ryan was forced to drill through the I-joists to efficiently wire the entire house, which wound up being rather time-consuming. After the wiring was complete, Denny’s Electric in Healdsburg connected the electricity.
Instead of traditional copper pipes, Ryan opted for Uponor North America AquaPex piping. AquaPex is flexible and eliminates water-hammer. It’s also better for water insulation, which helps keep this house energy-efficient.
In May 2020, the exterior of the house was fitted with custom-bent metal fascia from Metal Sales. Next, Ryan installed the soffit under the eaves of the house. This soffit was made from Douglas Fir and stained to match the exposed glulams inside. It was then sealed with Cutek to protect the wood outdoors.
In June, the radiant flooring for the second floor was installed. With the piping in place, Eddie’s Quality Concrete came out again to pour the cement. Because this is the second floor without the firm support of the foundation, it was essential to eliminate the potential for cracks. Eddie’s added fiber to the concrete as additional reinforcement.
Before June was over, the first of two 3ft retaining walls was built on the edge of the property by Team Arata! Throughout the building process, Ryan’s right-hand man has been his dad, Ron. The two men have been working side-by-side every step of the way. Between Kimberly Arata growing up on the property and now Ryan and Ron rebuilding from the ground up, this house is already a home.
With the structure of the house complete (including the inside framing), it was time to make this building look like a house! The first step was to install insulation. Primarily, Knauff insulation from Service Partners Supplier was used on all of the interior walls. With the open floor plan, two-story ceiling, and concrete floors, there was a big potential for echoing and for noise to carry. Insulating the interior walls nearly soundproofs any of the enclosed rooms (an essential feature with young children).
Because there is no attic space and the ceiling is directly below the roof, there is a risk of condensation and mold. To prevent any mold from growing in the soft insulation, 2” of spray-foam was applied first to stop the condensation. Regular insulation was then added on top (or rather—underneath).
On the few portions of exterior walls framed in wood (mostly near the roofline), a thick layer of Roxul Mineral Wool Insulation was installed. Roxul Insulation is exceptionally dense, which provides a similar level of noise absorption and insulation as the ICF blocks. It is also fire-resistant, meaning that in the unfortunate event of another wildfire, it will aid in protecting the home.
As you may recall, the drywall will be secured directly to the Fox Blocks. The Fox Blocks (or Insulated Concrete Forms) provide all the insulation necessarily. The drywall was provided by L & W Drywall Supply in Santa Rosa. The drywall used was 5/8” throughout, adding to the soundproofing. While Team Arata was able to complete most of the drywalling themselves, they did have a crew to install drywall in the harder-to-reach areas.
Seeing the walls completely up really helped the Arata family begin imagining their lives in their new home
After the insulation and drywall were up on the inside, attention turned to the outside. Typically, drywall is not installed until after the roof is complete (due to potential moisture damage). However, because the Insulated Concrete Forms and Zip System create a water-tight seal, it was safe to drywall the interior before putting the roof on. While the foam of the FoxBlocks ICFs does not require a water barrier, Henry’s rainscreen was added for additional protection before applying the siding.
In keeping with the modern look of the home, and to add even more individuality, James Hardie Panel Reveal System was selected. The panels feature a unique groove or “reveal” in the space between them. As a way to break up the paneling and add some visual interest, Ryan incorporated sections of James Hardie Lap Siding.
To finish off the siding, Versetta Stone accent columns were built around the corners of the house. The stones are cultured and manufactured locally in Napa. They feature an interlocking system that allows the stones to securely stack on top of one another without the use of cement or mortar. Because of the easy assembly process, Ryan was able to install the stones himself which meant he saved money by not having to hire a tile company.
Before the house could be painted, there were a few more projects to be completed. 101 Seamless Gutters (in Santa Rosa) came to install the gutters. And the name of the company says all you need to know about these gutters: they’re seamless! Instead of having a “joint” every few feet, these gutters are one continuous piece, which compliments the minimalist aesthetic. The piece of gutter that runs along one side of the house is 60 feet long! But the pros at 101 Seamless Gutters expertly installed them.
To finish up the top of the house, Metal Sales Vertical Seam roof panels were installed. The panels come pre-cut and would have been too difficult to lug up a ladder. So Precision Crane Service in Windsor did what they do best and hoisted the panels up to the roof so they could be installed.
Arguably the most enjoyable part of the build thus far was installing the front door. The unique door chosen is a Simpson Door Clear Edge door. The door features three glass panels that go all the way to the very edge of the door. Très chic! And instead of the hinges being on the side of the door, the experts in Hudson Street Design’s custom door shop modified the door to be a pivot door, meaning it swings from the top and bottom. And the best part was coating it in a deliciously lush red.
It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
At this point, the exterior of the Arata House is nearing completion! Before painting, the screw holes in the siding needed to be patched and sanded. Then a coat of Dunn-Edwards Paints Ultra Grip Primer was applied. And when they say “Ultra Grip,” they mean it! That primer is extremely difficult to remove (even from skin), so be careful when using.
At long last—time to paint! Ryan knew he wanted the house to be white, but it had to be just the right white to complement the various shades of gray, black and red also seen on the exterior. After much consideration and evaluation, and even painting a small sample area of the house, Ryan found the perfect Dunn Edwards white… or so he thought. After the entire house was painted, it was clear that this white had red undertones; the house was pink. Color can change appearance in different scenarios, lighting, etc. Ryan did everything right. However, a small sample might look very different from the entire house, and you might not realize until it’s too late… like Ryan.
The pink had to go. Ryan reevaluated and chose a different Dunn Edwards white with gray undertones, called “Porpoise.” So the house was coated with another layer of Dunn Edwards Evershield Outdoor paint. Happily, “Porpoise” did turn out to be the perfect white for the Arata House. What a relief! The house was finished with Dunn Edwards black around the trim to match the window frames. Once the paint was dry, our friends at 101 Seamless Gutters (in Santa Rosa) returned to add the downspouts.
Both the southern and western sides of the house are populated with lots of windows, and get direct sunlight. Awnings were added to combat the harsh light, but these weren’t just any awnings (of course). Unable to find an awning to go with the house, Ryan got creative. He purchased metal catwalk flooring from CT Darnell Construction, and then Ronnie Black from Black Iron (in Healdsburg) welded brackets to the catwalk material. It was painted black with Dunn Edwards Aristoshield paint made specifically for metal. And then—yup, you guessed it—Ryan hung those as the awnings! Just one more unexpected element of this very unique house.
With the exterior complete (save for the garage doors), it was time to get caught up on the inside. Instead of doing a standard orange peel (or equivalent) spray texture on the walls, a Level 5 Smooth Wall was chosen. The finish of the Smooth Wall is just as its name suggests: smooth. While the smooth finish looks effortless, it’s actually a somewhat lengthy process to achieve.
Typically, before applying the final finish, the seams in the drywall are taped to conceal them and prevent cracking. With the Smooth Wall, the topping compound is applied directly over the seams. The seams are layered in three coats, with each coat taking a few days to dry. And then an additional two layers were added over the entire surface. The entire house was sanded between the last three coats to ensure the smooth finish—talk about a mess!
While waiting for the Smooth Wall to finish drying, Ryan painted the garage walls a simple Dunn-Edwards Paints Suprema in White. When he was finally able to start painting inside, he chose “Snowflake” by Dunn Edwards with a velvet finish. The velvet finish, or “scrub-able flat”, is unique to Dunn Edwards. While it has the appearance of a flat finish, it has trace amounts of enamel which makes cleaning scuff-marks and handprints off the wall a breeze—a necessity with energetic kids!
With the walls painted, it’s easy to begin imagining where artwork will eventually be hung.
In keeping with the sleek, minimalistic aesthetic, the Arata House is designed sans interior trim, i.e. no baseboards, moulding, door/window frames, etc. As we learned in Chapter 8, the windows are inset in the center of the 12″ thick walls, and therefore don’t need interior trim. The door frames utilize the EzyJamb Flush Finish Door System from EZ-CONCEPT by Studco EzyJamb is a hidden door jamb system that creates seamless clean lines and eliminates the need for trim around the door frame. This steel door jamb conceals the door frame and creates square set interiors, as this unique system wraps the drywall during framing and blends seamlessly with the wall. Because of this, the jambs needed to be installed prior to the Smooth Wall application.
The doors themselves are a solid core 1-3/4″ Router Carved Encore Door from DoorMerica ABS’s Millennium Collection. The doors are made of laminated MDF and individually carved to create raised panels. Typically, interior doors are only 1-3/8″ thick, and are often hollow. The added thickness, as well as the solid core, make for a sound-proof door. This is important because sound carries easily with the tall ceilings and open floor plan. The doors were painted in Dunn-Edwards Paints “Industrial Age” with a low-sheen (satin) finish. The doors were hung with distinctive, black, square-barreled hinges from Emtek Products.
The office on the first floor is just off the main living area, and will double as a guest room. As such, the Aratas want the option of having that room open to the rest of the house, or closed off to give guests privacy. The entrance to the room has a 6 foot opening with single-wall double-pocket doors. Instead of the typical parlor doors that each slide into their own wall, these doors both slide into the same wall. And although there are technically two doors, they move as one unit. The doors are on a track from Johnson Hardware that features a soft-open/close to prevent the doors from slamming.
When the interior of the house was framed, a temporary open staircase was built. Initially, the plan was to cover the stair steps and enclose the space below to use as a closet. However, after using the open stairs for a few months while working on the house, the notion of keeping them open permanently began to grow on Ryan, as it would complement the home’s modern, minimalist aesthetic. Inspired by the look of bare wood on the temporary stairs, Ryan decided to use 4” x 12” glulam as the stair steps. The temporary steps were held in with a basic, metal corner brace that was visible when eye-level with a step. Ryan replaced the corner braces with a sleeker, black version. Then, using a router, he carefully carved out an indent on the underside of the step for the corner brace to fit into, making it flush with the stair and only visible from underneath.
The staircase has a 4’ x 4’ landing about two-thirds of the way up. Since using glulam pieces as steps wasn’t the original plan, Ryan had to get creative when it came to covering the landing. You may remember from Chapter 9 that the large glass doors at the rear of the house that open to the backyard came from one of our popular Boneyard Sales. Ryan lucked out again when he scored a 7’ glulam beam at another sale. Using a logging saw, the beam was sliced into floorboard-sized planks and then laid next to one another (much like normal floorboards) to create a landing that matched the rest of the steps. The exposed wood complements the exposed glulam supporting the ceiling and the natural finish on the inside of the front door.
After completing the landing, Ryan had another burst of inspiration: using the same method as the landing, he decided to build a door! He started with a door-sized sheet of 1” solid MDF, and then glued and nailed sliced planks of the glulam beam to one side of the MDF. The planks were laid horizontally and vertically in a design meant to complement the Carved Encore Doors from DoorMerica in the rest of the house.
The ‘glulam door’ was hung in the master bedroom as the entrance to the master bath, and is meant to be as much of a design element as it is a functional door. Instead of a standard hinge or pocket door, the door was hung with the Emtek Products Modern Barn Door Rectangular Face-Mount, which uses a track on the top and slides over the wall to one side. The look was completed with a chic, square handle. For reasons you’ll learn in a future chapter, the inside of the door (the side you can see from inside the bathroom) was painted Dunn-Edwards Paints “Industrial Age” grey and carved with a router to copy the grooves of the other doors and give this one the same raised-panel look. A simple, recessed pull was added to this side as well.
This special door, built by the homeowner, is just one of many unique details that make this home one of a kind.
With such a unique front door on this home, it would be a missed opportunity to use run-of-the-mill garage doors. After plenty of searching for just the right look, a “design your own” garage door system was selected from Keengaragedoors (located in Rohnert Park). Like many garage doors, these are made of horizontal panels so the door can roll up (instead of swinging straight out to open). The panels come in a variety of finishes, with (or without) frosted glass windows in a variety of sizes and positions. But here’s the fun part: you can pick each panel! These insulated and weather-sealed doors are custom made for each project. Ryan chose black steel with a vertical window pattern to complement the straight lines on the rest of the house. They also reflect the glass on the front door.
The two garage doors were mounted with a Lift Master jack-mount opener, which eliminates the need for the clunky framing hanging over the car. The doors are also equipped with a Smart Opener that will send alerts to the homeowner’s mobile phone in the event the door is left open.
As you may recall from Chapter 10, the second floor has the same radiant heating system encased in concrete as the first floor. However, because of the weight, the second floor concrete is only 1-1/2” thick. Unfortunately, when it’s that thin, the concrete is highly susceptible to cracks and would not be attractive as the actual floor. So, vinyl plank flooring was installed throughout the upstairs over the concrete. It comes in floorboard-sized planks that easily snap together making installation a breeze. It’s water-proof and easy to clean, and although it’s synthetic, it has a real-wood look.
On the second story of the Arata House, Kim & Ryan’s young daughters, Teagan and Hadley, each have their own bedroom suite. Each girl has her own room, walk-in closet and bathroom. (This will avoid many fights over bathrooms and closets as the girls become teenagers!) Each bathroom is located through the walk-in closets, which are off the girls’ bedrooms.
The two bathrooms are nearly identical—merely a reflection of each other. Each bathroom has a floating vanity with unique, angular sinks (as opposed to a typical elliptical shape). They are topped off with modern faucets in a black matte finish. Above the sink is a mirrored medicine cabinet from Kohler, with two opening panels. Between the medicine cabinet and vanity, there is plenty of storage—again, an essential feature as the girls grow.
The low-flow, white porcelain toilet is also from Kohler. This special commode features Continuous Clean technology which pumps water through a chlorine filter and directly into the toilet bowl, instead of sitting in the tank. This prevents the water from corroding the inside of the tank. Because the floors have a radiant heat system, a normal wax seal for the toilet base would only melt on the first chilly day. Instead, a waxless Saniseal toilet ring was used to seal the base of the toilet.
The shower is a standard surround from Delta with an H2O Kinetic showerhead in black matte. The Modular Shower Doors are also from Delta, and—like all the doors in this house—feature the soft close system. This is particularly important on the glass shower doors because it will prevent them from slamming.
The bathrooms both have an awning window, which is always nice to have in a bathroom (for multiple reasons). However, for cold days when you don’t want to open the window, these bathrooms have a fan that turns on briefly every five minutes to keep the air moving. The fans also have humidity sensors which will turn them on.
While Ryan thought of every detail, including the light fixture and towel rack, what really makes the bathrooms special is the mermaid artwork chosen carefully by Teagan and Hadley.
Back in Chapter 17, doors were installed throughout the house. For the master bath, Ryan built a door out of glulam, which was painted and routed on the bathroom side of the door to match the other doors in the house. The reason for this was a planned accent wall in the bathroom with a wood detail. Had both sides of the door been finished with the leftover glulam, the two different wood elements would have clashed. This way, both can be a focal point without drawing attention from the other.
To create the accent wall, Ryan first painted the wall in Dunn-Edwards Paints‘ matte black. He then created 3” strips of wood by ripping 1”x6” Select Doug Fir square edge. It was important to use square edges in order to ensure that both sides have the same square or flat edges after ripping them in half. After applying a matte clear-coat finish, the strips were glued to the wall vertically using Loctite Power Grab Express glue, and a few pin nails for good measure. The strips are 3/4” apart so you can see the black showing through.
The master bath features a separate tub and shower. You might remember from Chapter 4 that the pipes running to various parts of the house were positioned prior to the concrete foundation being poured. The pipes and drain for the tub were positioned based on a pre-selected tub. However, when it was time to actually purchase the tub, the Aratas were surprised to learn it cost $8,000! Not wanting to break the bank, they decided to go with a (much) less expensive option. They chose a free-standing air tub which is painted black on the outside—complimenting the black details throughout the bathroom.
Unfortunately, the new tub posed a problem: the faucet and drain were not in the same place as the original tub, so Ryan had to get creative. He built a low platform for the tub to sit on, which would allow him to discreetly run pipes from the original spot to the new tub. He then covered the platform in a pebble tile. Between the wood and stone, this bathroom is starting to have a spa-feel!
Speaking of spas… next to the tub, and within reach of the shower, is a heated towel rack from Warmly Yours. The towel rack is wired into the wall and can be programmed to turn on every morning so you always have a cozy, warm towel to wrap-up in after bathing. Now that is fancy!
After the concrete was poured over the waffle blocks and radiant heating system, the slab was covered with a curing blanket to help it dry evenly and protect it as construction continued. Normally, a foundation will eventually be covered with some type of flooring, so nicks, scratches, dirt (and even some small cracks) are nothing to be concerned about. But since this slab is actually the floor of the house, it was essential to keep it protected during framing, drywalling, painting , etc.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, there were still some scuff marks, pencil and pen marks from framing, ground-in drywall and sawdust. Luckily, nothing is a match for M Stone Services! Matt Stone and his crew set to work on a three day process to clean the cement and prep it before sealing it. First, he used a mild white vinegar solution with a specialized cleaning machine. He then used various cleaning solutions—each with their own purpose: one for cleaning pencils , one for blue ink and another for red ink , etc. This was followed with a stronger vinegar solution. Finally, a mottling acid was applied to help bring out various pigments in the concrete. The last step was to remove any paint droplets.
Right before applying the first coat of sealant, a special agent was used to bring out the color in the concrete. Then Matt sprayed a CF matte finish seal over the entire surface. He applied four coats in all, allowing about 30 minutes between to let it dry. The result is an absolutely gorgeous finish that highlights the various colors in the cement, which (as you’ll find out as we get closer to completion) really pulls the whole space together.
The main floor of the house has two bathrooms: the master bath (through the master bedroom) and the guest bath which opens to the main living and the office/guest room. As such, this is a full bath—including a tub/shower combo. The bathtub itself is from Kohler and is cast iron (as opposed to a flimsier fiberglass tub). And instead of the typical elliptical shape, this bathtub is more angular giving it a modern sophistication.
Since just about everything in this home is custom, why would the bathroom tile be any different? Before tile can go up, the area surrounding the tub and shower need to be water-proofed. Mounted to the studs are DensShield Tile Backer Boards, which are rigid, like sheetrock. Then, as an added layer of moisture protection, Kerdi membrane from Schluter Systems was installed over the Tile Backer Boards.
Ryan chose a slate-grey tile that has a concrete-like appearance to compliment the floors. But that’s not the neat part: these tiles are quite big at 12” x 24”! It doesn’t stop there; instead of a standard, horizontal pattern, Ryan placed these vertically—using mortar to adhere and tile leveling wedges for leveling and spacing. Each column ends at a different height—purely for the visual appeal. The look is polished off with one column of white tile to really make it a statement. After allowing 24 hours for the mortar to solidify, grout was applied between the tiles to secure everything in place.
Instead of standard doors for a tub, Ryan opted for full-sized doors from Delta that stand 6’ above the tub. The ceilings in the bathroom are 10’, so a normal-sized shower would have looked out of proportion with the room. The tile and doors both reach about 8’ which seems more fitting for the space. The bathtub was finished off with black matte fixtures (also from Delta) that match the faucets in the upstairs bathrooms.
Most builders would probably choose a pre-made banister and railing from companies like L.J. Smith or Cable Rail. But Ryan Arata is not most builders. He had a specific look in mind, so he decided to go ahead and build it himself. He started by working with Ronnie Black from Black Iron to create the steel posts. Posts like these are typically made from aluminum, but steel is a less expensive option. The steel was painted black with Dunn-Edwards Paints Aristoshield in semi-gloss. Their Aristoshield line is made specifically for metal.
The next step was to drill holes in the posts through which the cables will eventually be strung. Since cables have some flex to them, they are required to be spaced no more than 3” apart, as opposed to the 4” for something rigid. There are 13 cables, 13 posts, and most of the posts have holes on two sides. That is a LOT of drilling! The holes for the posts on the banister were particularly challenging because they are at an angle. The cable railing are stainless steel 1x19s from Feeney. By building custom railings, Ryan was also able to choose minimalist hardware and creatively conceal the nuts and bolts keeping the tension in the cables.
The banister and railing were topped off with a Clear Fir handrail, sealed with a clear coat. The natural wood matches the stairs and adjacent front door. A second piece of wood was secured under the handrail in order to provide pressure against the pull of the cables.
To finish off the entryway, an avant garde chandelier was hung just inside the front door as a focal point.
The first completely finished room on the main floor is the laundry room. The laundry room is off of the main living space next to the stairs. It also connects to the garage. Ryan Arata installed classic white cabinets which offer plenty of storage space for extra linens, cleaning supplies, seasonal clothing, etc. The lower cabinets are topped off with maple wood countertops from Mount Storm. This includes a large island in the center of the room. The wood comes pre-sealed to protect it from damp laundry, etc.
When Ryan designed the room, he did so with a specific washer and dryer in mind. This allowed him to place the water source and dryer vent in very specific locations, meaning that the appliances could sit (nearly) flush against the wall—instead of sticking out six or more inches to allow space for the pipes and vent to connect. We’re all familiar with the back pain that comes along with bending down to deal with laundry, often twisting uncomfortably to dig out that last sock. To avoid this and make life a little easier, the machines sit atop a cabinet, raising them up about two feet. The cabinet beneath the washer and dryer would be very difficult to access if it simply had doors. Again, to make life a bit easier, Ryan turned these into drawers which can be pulled all the way out—making this a much more usable storage space.
If this were just any ordinary laundry room, this chapter would end here. However, when designing this room, Ryan added some clever features to make this room more multi-functional. The upper cabinet to the left of the washer and dryer is actually a hidden drying rack for delicates and anything else that shouldn’t go in the dryer. The bottom of the cabinet is open and sits directly over the sink to catch the drips of water. A cupboard on the other side of the room is actually the media cabinet that houses all of the media equipment for the house, like the router, modem, stereo, etc. This particular cabinet is two-sided and can be accessed from the garage. And perhaps best of all, one lower cabinet is lacking a kickboard. Why? To allow an entrance for the Roomba to put itself away and connect to the charger hidden within.
Because the garage entrance will probably be used quite a bit, there is a bench and coat rack just inside the door as a place to leave backpacks, to sit and take shoes on and off, hang a purse, etc. And Ryan’s mom, Gail, handmade the cushion for the bench! This building project is truly a family affair.
As you may remember, the guest room on the main floor will double as a home office. Ryan Arata was initially keen to install built-in desks and storage, but after the fiasco with the laundry room cabinets, he was hesitant to pre-order something again. Happily, he was able to find some discounted cabinetry at one of our Boneyard Sales. The cabinets were in great condition, and with a bit of modification, they would be perfect for the Aratas’ office.
First, Ryan reconfigured the cabinets and installed them as both upper and lower cabinets. He then painted them in Dunn-Edwards Paints Aristoshield with a velvet finish. They are painted in Industrial Age grey—the same shade used on the doors throughout the house.
To actually turn the cabinets into desks or work spaces, they would need some kind of surface. Ryan went with the same maple wood countertops from Mount Storm that were used in the laundry room. The wood comes pre-sealed which will help protect it from wear and tear over time.
There were enough cabinets left over from the workspaces that Ryan could create some custom built-ins in the closet to store office supplies, etc., or for guests to stow their belongings.
The room is topped off with a chic, angular, fan with a black matte finish. And it should come as no surprise that even the fan is minimalistic; it only has three blades.
What home in Wine Country would be complete without designated wine storage? A traditional cellar would not have been possible given the WaffleMat foundation, so a small room was added just outside of the laundry room. The doors are insulated glass exterior doors with a natural finish from Simpson Door Company. They are actually individual doors, but our door shop was able to modify them to be used as fresh doors. Exterior doors were selected so that the room can be temperature controlled in order to protect the wine.
The focal point of the room is the wine storage—designed by Ryan. The textured planks attached to the wall are actually pieces of Thermory Ignite with the Dragon Scale finish, ending at various heights (similar to the tile in the guest bathroom). Then 10” galvanized steel spikes that will support wine bottles were carefully measured and secured in place.
Below the wine display, there is a quartz countertop that is actually repurposed from another project. Ryan built a custom cabinet under the counter to store glasses, spirits, and other accessories.
And, of course, the final step is to arrange the wine!
The Tubbs Fire completely leveled many neighborhoods throughout Santa Rosa, including the Aratas’. The new homes being built must adhere to current building codes, which meant some big infrastructure updates for the city and county to address. New homes are required to have sprinklers in case of (another) fire, and the sprinklers require a lot of water. The existing 5/8” pipes that supply water to the neighborhood were replaced with 1 ½” pipes to allow for a greater volume of water to reach each house (something that was unnecessary before the fire because most homes were not previously outfitted with sprinklers). This update was sufficient for the sprinklers in most of the other homes on the street. However, the Aratas’ house is on a bit of a hill and actually sits 7’-8’ above the street. Because of this, water is traveling upward, and lacks the pressure needed to not only get up the hill, but reach the sprinkler heads on the second story ceilings—over 30’ above the street. So Eddinger Enterprises installed a Booster Pump which will provide the level of water pressure required by the Fire Marshall.
You may recall that the kitchen has exposed beams that extend down from the ceiling. While they’re very attractive, they pose a problem for the sprinklers. The beams block the trajectory of the water being sprayed, so just having the minimum number of sprinklers in that space would not pass a building inspection. In order to ensure that there aren’t any “blind spots”, 32 sprinklers were installed in the kitchen—every few feet. For reference, there is a total of only 24 sprinklers in the rest of the first floor!
The Aratas’ house is entirely electric (no gas). In order to qualify for the rebate offered by Sonoma Clean Power 12.2kw solar panels from Tesla were installed on the roof. The solar panels are also required to have two back-up batteries from which energy can be drawn, cutting down the need for supplementary electricity even more.
One of the many thoughtful features of this home are the oversized walk-in closets with plenty of built-ins and organizing options. Upstairs, each bedroom has its own closet. Ryan designed the custom built-ins to fit his daughters’ needs—now and in the future. The shelving is made from particle board with a white finish, and the shelves can easily be adjusted by moving the supporting pegs. The clothing rods are oval with a chrome finish, and the custom-sized drawers are painted the same Dunn-Edwards Paints Industrial Grey that is featured throughout the rest of the house. A built-in laundry hamper from Hafele will make it easy for each girl to keep her room tidy, and the built-in shoe-rack has plenty of space to house a healthy shoe collection as they grow into teenagers.
The master bedroom has a similar set up, though it’s significantly larger as two people will be using it. The shelving in this closet is made of Maple Short Cutz (instead of the white), but the same custom drawers in Industrial Grey. In addition, there are wire baskets from Rev-A-Shelf. There are his-and-hers laundry hampers from Hafele, as well as a tie-rack from Hafele. There’s plenty of space to hang clothes on the satin nickel round clothes rods, and plenty of space to store two shoe collections.
It’s often easier to hang window coverings before moving in since you won’t need to move furniture to reach the windows. So that’s just what Ryan did. The house is covered with windows which provide tons of natural light. However, there are some rooms when privacy or light-blocking might be preferred. All of the bedrooms throughout the house, including the office, are outfitted with Hunter Douglas Motorized Roller Blackout Shades in Midnight Black. The best part? These shades can be controlled through Alexa or remotely from an app.
For the bathrooms, they opted for 5% privacy screens, also from Hunter Douglas; they let light in and one can see through to the outside, but someone outside will not be able to clearly see in. Both the screens and shades can be found at Hudson Street Design.
As many of you have probably experienced by now, the pandemic-caused labor shortage has made it difficult to find some items. Looking for your favorite cereal at the grocery store? Back-ordered. Tennis shoes in your size? Trapped in a shipping container. Toilet paper? Forget about it. So I’m sure you understand that some of the necessary items needed to finish the house are—yup, you guessed it: back-ordered.
Companies and Products Involved