A Passive Solar Home Built Into the Hillside Asks $610K in Northern California

Article from Dwell Magazine written by Kathryn M. on April 27, 2021. Click here to read the article on Dwell.com.

Designed in 1980, the partially sunken Sunburst Residence keeps a low profile—and a low carbon footprint.

In Applegate, California, halfway between Sacramento and the mountains of Lake Tahoe, a passive solar home known as the Sunburst Residence emerges from the trees. Built in 1980 by SeaGroup architects David Wright and Dennis Andrejko for an older couple on the cusp of retirement, the wood-clad house is low impact and environmentally conscious.

Clad in cedar, the Sunburst Residence is nestled on a three-acre lot with part of its north-facing facade built into the hillside. A paved driveway leads to the two-car garage. 

Photo courtesy of Redfin.
Clad in cedar, the Sunburst Residence is nestled on a three-acre lot with part of its north-facing facade built into the hillside. A paved driveway leads to the two-car garage.  Photo courtesy of Redfin

“Because there is no central heating or cooling, the home was built into the hillside to take advantage of natural temperature control,” says Jasmine Eaton, the current homeowner. “Couple that with the slanted roof to encourage airflow through the many windows and skylights, and we have little need for AC in the summer—even in the Sierra Nevada foothills.”

Upon entry, a generous foyer—also wrapped in cedar—opens to the main living area. Photo courtesy of Redfin

Measuring over 1,600 square feet, the dwelling spreads across two levels with the primary living spaces on the first floor. Caramel-toned wood paneling spans the ceiling, capping the connected kitchen, dining, and living areas. Windows and glass doors line the south-facing wall, illuminating the floor with ample natural light while blending the lines between inside and out.

Tile runs across the floor on the main level, contrasting with the surrounding shades of wood. The dining area sits sandwiched between the kitchen and living room, with colorful pendants hanging over the table. Skylights punctuate the sloping ceiling, ushering in warm light.
Photo courtesy of Redfin
A white tiled fireplace adds a graphic pop in the living room. One of the home’s two bathrooms sits at the end of the hall, near an adjacent bedroom. Photo courtesy of Redfin

Jasmine purchased the Sunburst Residence from the original owners. “The wife was very cautious to sell, as she didn’t want the original design to be ruined with add-ons or renovations that were not true to the style of the home,” she remembers. “While we’ve done some restorations and upgrades to bring the home back to what it should look like, there’s still more work to be done to return the space to its original form.” 

Another view of the living room, showcasing the expansive wall of windows and glass doors. Photo courtesy of Redfin
The bright, spacious kitchen enjoys a breakfast bar. Photo courtesy of Redfin

In addition to large, bright gathering areas, the home offers two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The primary suite is located on the upper level and features a private balcony along with a newly installed terrazzo floor in the connected bath. Throughout, a neutral, organic palette merges with clean lines, enhancing the home’s overall connection to its natural setting.

All of the birch cabinetry in the kitchen is original to the home.  Photo courtesy of Redfin

“From the downstairs tile and cedar-clad walls, to the floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly every room—we love so much about this home, and we’re heartbroken that we have to sell,” says Jasmine, whose family is relocating for work. Keep scrolling to see more of the property, currently listed for $610,000.

To the side of the kitchen is additional storage, as well as a spacious, built-in desk. Photo courtesy of Redfin
Large windows and tile flooring continue into the bedroom located on the main floor. Photo courtesy of Redfin
Upstairs, an oversized hallway, complete with a vanity and closet, lead to the primary suite. Photo courtesy of Redfin
Drenched with sunlight, the primary bedroom takes up much of the upper level. Broad sliding doors connect the space with the adjacent terrace. Photo courtesy of Redfin

The en-suite bath offers a dual vanity and large soaking tub, as well as new terrazzo floors. Photo courtesy of Redfin
The south-facing side of the home includes multiple decks and outdoor platforms, catering to seamless indoor/outdoor living.
Photo courtesy of Redfin