North of S.F., stunning architecture dwells (photos)

Road Trip at Home: Dwell magazine was born in the Bay Area, and CNET visits four houses on its Marin Homes tour.

Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
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Bridge House

MARIN COUNTY, Calif.--With one of the highest per capita incomes of any U.S. county, and real estate prices among the steepest in the world, this lush, beautiful area just north of San Francisco is home to some of the most striking architecture to be found.

Views to die for--of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean--and endless open green space, help put Marin high on many people's list of dream destinations. So it's no surprise that the founder of Dwell magazine, which focuses on clean, modern design, lives here.

Later this month, Dwell is co-hosting, along with Marin magazine, a tour of some of the most breathtaking houses in the area. As part of my Road Trip at Home series, I got to visit four of the best of those in advance.

This is the Bridge House, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz "on a site without any flat surfaces and with a creek cutting straight through it," according to the tour brochure. "Saitowitz ignored what other designers had attempted--forcing an even plane with costly grading and excavating. Instead, he laid a rectangular structure across the river's small valley that, quite literally, bridges the gap."

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Front of Bridge House

Stanley Saitowitz's Bridge House, built over five and a half years from 2002 to 2008, uses Cor-Ten cladding to give it a look of "a rusty machine in the landscape."

As the brochure says, "The roof is red gravel, and from above, the house looks like a railway train that stopped on a bridge for a while, hardly touching the site."

Here, we see the house from the driveway, in front, and a ways off the street.

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Low view, Bridge House

This is a low-angle view of the front of the Bridge House.
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Entryway to Bridge House

Visitors to the Bridge House come up the main stairway to this wide-open entryway. The area also serves as a sitting area, and has an outdoor fireplace.
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Patio of Bridge House

Many elements of the Bridge House, including the barbeque shown here, are raised off the ground. This approach allowed Saitowitz to fit both the stairway and the fireplace that the home's owners wanted. After that discovery, the architect applied the same idea to other parts of the house.
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Main living space

This is the main living space in the Bridge House. On the top level are windows facing east, while on the lower level, the windows face west.
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Underneath the Bridge House

This is a view underneath the Bridge House, with the river--in this picture, looking more like a creek--flowing under it.
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Raised fireplace

Stanley Saitowitz created a raised fireplace at the Bridge House to satisfy the wishes of the owners, who wanted a fireplace located adjacent to their stairway.
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The airy and spacious kitchen in the Bridge House opens to an informal dining area and has large windows open to it from the east.
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Bridge House hillside

Beautiful green space defines the property of the Bridge House. The owners regularly see all kinds of wildlife, including deer, bobcats, and all kinds of birds.
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Formal dining

This is the formal dining area in the Bridge House.
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Master bath

This is the master bath in the Bridge House.
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Master bedroom

This is the master bedroom in the Bridge House. The home has several other bedrooms as well, including one each for the two children living there.
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Tiburon Residence

The Tiburon Residence, designed by architect Ron Sutton, is located high above Richardson Bay and has stunning views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Oakland, and more. It is adjacent to lovely green space, and features wide-open west-facing rooms that can be opened when weather conditions are normal, and closed when the wind picks up. It also has a large sheltered back area that allows the owners to be outside even when it's windy.
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Bridge view

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge can be enjoyed from many areas both inside and outside the Tiburon Residence.
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Living room

This is the living room in the Tiburon Residence. Note the Golden Gate Bridge, which is seen in the middle of the window on the right side.
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Looking at reflecting pool

The Tiburon Residence features a reflecting pool that can be seen both from many areas inside, and also from the outdoor patio in the rear.
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Angel Island and San Francisco views

From the south side of the Tiburon Residence, there are majestic views of Angel Island and, just to the right, San Francisco.
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Back patio

The back patio at the Tiburon Residence is sheltered from the prevailing wind, allowing the owners to be outside even when it's very windy--as is often the case at the top of the hill in Tiburon.
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Just to the east of the house is this beautiful, untouched green space lined with hiking trails.
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View from the lawn chair

Those sitting in chairs on the front lawn have world-class views of Richardson Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as Sausalito and the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais, and more.
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This chandelier hangs over the table in the Tiburon Residence dining room.
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This is the kitchen in the Tiburon Residence.
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Breakfast area

Adjacent to the kitchen is this breakfast area. Like much of the rest of the house, it features world-class views.
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Master bedroom

The master bedroom in the Tiburon Residence has terrific views facing south.
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Tub with a view

From this tub in the master bathroom, the house's occupants can see from east to west, including Oakland and Berkeley, Angel Island, San Francisco, and more.
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Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is famous for, among other things, its houseboat communities. There, several docks of these floating homes can be found just blocks from million-dollar mansions.

This is the Gate 5 House, owned and designed by architect David Spurgeon. Built by hand over three years from 2002 to 2005, the houseboat features two wide-open floors, a gourmet kitchen, huge amounts of light, and two decks. It also has its own boat, allowing Spurgeon to set sail right from his living room.

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Houseboat interior

This is the main floor of architect David Spurgeon's Gate 5 House, a houseboat in Sausalito, Calif. The house has two floors, and is connected by a stairway. The floors are made from bamboo, and the beams are crafted from new growth wood. The house is designed to be extremely energy efficient.
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The kitchen in the Gate 5 House would look good in any home, let alone in a houseboat.
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Upper deck

This is the upper deck of the house. With the doors open to the water, Spurgeon can enjoy the warm weather without having his view obstructed in any way. When it's cold, he can close the doors and stay warm inside.
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Row of houseboats

Houseboat communities can be extremely homey and charming, as seen here, looking down the dock where the Gate 5 House is moored.
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Lower level

Spurgeon's bed is located in the lower level of his houseboat.
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Here, we see Spurgeon's boat, which is tied up alongside his houseboat.
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Spurgeon's main bathroom features industrial restaurant fixtures.
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Lower porch

The lower deck of Spurgeon's Gate 5 House.
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Bunk and closet

To maximize space, Spurgeon designed his closets to be low so he could place a bunk bed atop them.
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This is the bedroom area of the houseboat.
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Looking out at the water

Looking through one of the windows on the houseboat's lower level, it's possible to see the water just inches below.
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Pfau House

The Pfau House is designed and owned by architect Peter Pfau.

Located atop a hill in leafy San Anselmo, Calif., about 20 minutes northwest of San Francisco, the house is a modern take on a 1950s-era house that used to dominate this hill. Now, with contemporary updates done by Pfau and his wife when they remodeled the building in 2008, it features stone from the original building and new features like large windows and metal beams.

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Front of Pfau House

This is the front of the Pfau House. The building features solar panels on the roof of its garage that heat water stored in a small tank inside, allowing the occupants to have hot water and radiant heating all year without a hefty energy bill.
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Outside and inside

Pfau's idea for the redesign of his house was to make the outside and inside complementary. That's why almost every room in the house features large windows through which it's possible to see outside to the deeply green hillside covered in trees, as well as the valley below.
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Master bath

This is the master bath in the Pfau House.
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Living room

The living room in the Pfau House is another space that brings the outside in.
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Master bedroom

This is the Pfau House's master bedroom.
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Doorway and stone wall

The front door of the Pfau House, as seen from the inside. It is placed alongside one of the stone walls left from the original house on the property.
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This is the kitchen in the Pfau House.
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Dining and living areas

Pfau made sure the house featured large, wide-open spaces that would catch lots of light, like the dining and living room areas.
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Main front view

Another view of the front of the Pfau House.
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Hot tub

In the very corner of the Pfau House's large backyard, there's a hot tub that offers expansive views of the woods and valley below.
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Pool area

The pool area is located just below the main house.

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