The Butterfly House. Spectacular Location, Design and Integration.

Feldman Architecture Butterfly House

The Butterfly House by Feldman Architecture unites a breathtaking 5 acre location with an incredibly designed 2,900 square foot home near Carmel, California. The indoor and outdoor spaces are integrated through the use of NanaWall, an award-winning edge-to-edge glass folding wall system.

Feldman Architecture Butterfly House

approach to Butterfly House

The clients approached Feldman Architecture to design a retreat for eventual retirement and visits from their grown children — a retreat befitting the natural beauty of the location in the Santa Lucia Preserve, a 20,000 acre private development and land trust near Carmel, California.

Santa Lucia Reserve near Carmel, CA

The clients were meticulous in the selection of the site, searching for two years for a spectacular piece of land that was flat enough to accommodate living on one level.

Feldman Architecture Butterfly House

In an initial meeting with Feldman Architecture, the clients noted their vision of butterflies alighting on the meadow site, which the architects took as inspiration. (I have included a list of the Butterflies observed in the area at the end of this post).

Feldman Architecture Butterfly House

They also expressed a desire to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with a simple, modern aesthetic and to provide separate spaces for their visitors. Accordion-like NanaWall doors were installed in the living and dining rooms to provide openings to bring the outside and coastal breezes into the home. There is a video of their functionality shown at the end of the post.

Butterfly House


butterfly house

Sitting lightly on the five acre site, the 2,900 sq.ft. house is divided into three pavilions that are topped by expressive butterfly roofs. The “butterfly” roofs allows extra ventilation with operable high windows. To make the roof appear to float above the concrete walls, Sheerline Structural Engineering embedded slender, stiff posts in to the concrete and disguised them as window mulling pieces.

the pavilions

Each pavilion has a separate function: the central pavilion houses the main living, dining, and cooking spaces, while two other pavilions provide for sleeping, bathing, and relaxing.

butterfly house

The structures are modest in size, yet each expands into an outdoor room that opens up to dramatic views of the canyon below and hills above.

Main Dining and Living:

Feldman Butterfly house int

overhead of dining room

dining room butterfly house feldman architects


concrete stairs to loft

Kitchen Butterfly House

Office just off the kitchen:

Bedroom and Bath:
Feldman Butterfly bedroom

Feldman Butterfly bathroom


The neutral palette of the house—concrete floors and walls, large glass openings, plywood ceilings, and steel structure—flows from indoors to outdoors.

butterfly house in Carmel

The use of concrete and large expanses of glass acts as a heat sink—absorbing heat from the sunlight all day and releasing that heat at night.

sustainable architecture Carmel CA

The house uses little energy as a result of extensive daylighting and passive thermal strategies. A large solar array located out-of-sight provides much of the energy that is used.

harvesting rainwater

Beyond poetic gesture, the butterfly roofs bring in views of the surrounding hills, expand the main living spaces into the outdoors and also harvest rainwater. Water, an increasingly limited resource, is celebrated throughout the design.

butterfly house rainwater harvesting system

Each roof funnels water to a rain chain fountain and into landscape collection pools, which then gather in cisterns where it is stored and used to irrigate the landscape.

butterfly house rainwater harvesting cisterns

In addition, the pavilions were sited to allow storm water to flow under the office bridge during the rainy season and seep slowly into the ground in the main courtyard.

The video below shows the incorporation of the glass walls that open to the outdoors by NanaWall :

Feldman Butterfly House plans

*Butterflies observed at the Santa Lucia Preserve

butterflies observed at Santa Lucia Preserve

Contractor: Groza Construction
Landscape: Bernard Trainor + Associates
Interior Design: Feldman Architecture
Engineer: Sheerline Structural Engineering
Lighting Design: Kim Cladas Lighting Design
Audio Visual: MetroEighteen
Cabinetry, Stair Treads, and Custom Furniture: Commercial Woodworking
Photography: Joe Fletcher

• AIA Monterey Bay – 2013 Design Awards Citation
• The Chicago Athenaeum – 2015 American Architecture Award

images and information courtesy of Feldman Architecture, Joe Fletcher Photo, Groza Construction, Sheerline Structural Engineering and Arch Daily. Butterfly list courtesy of the Santa Lucia Preserve.