California Houses Creativity in Context

Michael Webb

From the earliest pioneers to the innovators of Silicon Valley, California has always attracted adventurous spirits. The latest expression of that daring is contained in these thirty-six unique houses created by talented architects to enrich the land and enhance the lives of their owners.

California Houses brings together thirty-six houses completed over the past ten years that capture the spirit of California in distinctive ways and respond creatively to context and the environment. They engage forests and deserts, the ocean and city streets. Large or small, they demonstrate the extraordinary range of invention emerging from the offices of established and younger architects. This is a celebration of the best talent as well as clients with the imagination and means to commission houses that are one-of-a-kind and advance the art of architecture.

California is a hotbed of sustainable construction, as mandated by state legislation, and all of these houses employ active and passive strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. There’s a strong emphasis on natural light and ventilation, thermal insulation, and solar panels. Rainwater is harvested for irrigation. These are homes constructed to conserve energy, withstand earthquakes and, often, to resist wildfires, but without losing their aesthetic appeal.

The selection ranges from a landscaped concrete dome to an inflatable shelter that can be assembled and relocated as easily as a tent. An expansive ocean-front retreat contrasts with a bungalow that has been transformed on a shoestring budget and a weekend cabin in a desert wilderness. One house cascades down a wooded hillside, another spans a creek, and several more are tucked into confined city lots.


Elegant… The judicious selection of houses emphasizes the playful and unusual, and Webb's assured commentary illuminates the inventive ways architects engage with municipal and natural constraints. It's a striking survey of some of the Golden State's more remarkable homes.

— Publishers Weekly


Michael Webb


Michael Webb is a Los Angeles-based writer who has authored thirty books on architecture and design, most recently Architects' Houses, and Building Community: New Apartment Architecture, while contributing essays to many more. He is also a regular contributor to leading journals in the United States, Asia, and Europe. Growing up in London, he was an editor at The Times and Country Life, before moving to the United States. He lives in the Richard Neutra apartment that was once home to Charles and Ray Eames.