The Grover House is on a narrow lot at the top of Pacific Heights, with a view north to the Golden Gate and Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin. The house is closed by solid party walls to neighbors on the east and west, opening only its narrow sides to the north and south. The design maximizes light and views by separating the house into two parts. Fronting the street is a two story service zone with garage and entry below and a children’s playroom on the second level. Between the two volumes is a protected outdoor living space. The main living spaces, in the three-story volume, are located to the rear, protected from the street, and sharing the northern views and the sunlit garden to the south. Street entry is through a passage through the two story volume into the courtyard, and a roof protects the path to the main entry beyond. The living spaces are on the first and third levels, separated by the bedroom level between. The dining room shares the garden level, supported by the kitchen and two maids’ rooms. The living room, solarium and south-facing outdoor deck are on the top level. The living room, at the rear, is the full width of the house with a bank of windows facing the bay.
This house is typical of William Wurster’s residential work of this period; a small house with the quality and livability of much larger houses. Key features include controlled outside space, indoor-outdoor rooms, large windows, common materials and simplified detailing.
The expression is modest, but dignified and formally rigorous. Both parts of the building address the street in a formal way, with symmetrical windows and roof overhangs, which reinforce its frontality to the south. The cubic form of both volumes are retained with the principle openings of the entry and third level deck carved from the masses. The super-simple massing and modest expression of this house belie the extraordinary richness of indoor-outdoor living experiences this design permits.
Sources: Inside the Large Small House: The Residential Design Legacy of William W Wurster. R Thomas Hille, Princeton Architectural Press, 1994
b+w photo: Roger Sturtevant Collection, Oakland Museum color image: Google Maps