Russ Dotter Designs Houses with Gusto

martinexterior1recently framed Guest House in Marin County, designed by Russ Dotter

My friend Russ Dotter designs houses that both anchor and enliven a site, as though the house and its surroundings grew up together through generations of mindful co-habitation. He has a gift for combining contemporary construction methods and a California modus vivendi with the classic ‘stick style’ vernacular of the Eastern Seaboard and its regional resonances. I’m honored to have the charge of outfitting the interior of a Russ Dotter-designed Guest House in Marin County, sited on the footprint of an old barn alongside a seasonal creek, downslope from the main house, which was designed by William Wurster in the 1930’s.

martininterior2roughed-out interior of the Guest House

While the main house undergoes extensive renovations, its interior designed by Wencke Solfjeld, Russ’s wife and partner in Dotter & Solfjeld Architects, the Guest House is framed up and I’ve begun to spend time on site, making final measurements for the built-in furniture and casework I designed last spring. I love getting a feel for the interior volumes during this raw phase, with framing exposed and rough openings for windows and doors. I know Russ devoted a lot of thought to maintaining a feeling of privacy while opening up to views. The little house rewards his efforts with many surprises both inside and out, with changes in level and shifts in scale and perspective as one negotiates the interior, which will eventually flow naturally to decks and stairs outside.

I see my charge for the design of the interior as adding nuance and detail to the narrative gesture Russ has articulated volumetric-ally. My furnishings and fittings will have a consistent hand, interpreting the site and its intended patterns of use through the language of woodcraft. The Guest House interior will make a contemporary spin on the rustic cabin retreat, mindful of the original barn and respectful of Wurster’s stripped-down, farmhouse austerity, but with added playfulness and a hint of eccentricity befitting the pedigree of the project.

To learn about the wood I’ll be using for the project, follow the thread by clicking here and scrolling down.

2 replies on “Russ Dotter Designs Houses with Gusto”

  1. Scott,

    I followed through to the end of the thread and it gave me some good insight into the way you’re working through this project in particular and your approach to sourcing material generally. I built a spiral staircase with cedar accents and the softness of the material was a definite concern, is this something you’ll address in crafting the built-ins?


  2. Hi Nic-
    The deodar is pretty hard for a cedar, comparable to fir or yellow pine. The tree has a lot of resin, which hardens when the wood is air-dried. Plus, I’ll be using heartwood where there will be the most wear.


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