a gray home with a dovecote protruding from one end

A Contemporary Dovecote Adorns This Architect’s Home

In Sonoma, California, Neal J.Z. Schwartz added a home for birds to his own, creating a modern riff on an old-school building type.

Inspired by the murmuration of mourning doves that share his wooded property in Sonoma, California, Neal J.Z. Schwartz, founder and principal of San Francisco–based Schwartz and Architecture, built his feathered neighbors a new home. The contemporary riff on the traditional dovecote is built into the roof of a 390-square-foot studio addition to Schwartz’s house. Dovecotes, once built as adjuncts to country kitchens and barns, historically held agricultural functions as well as decorative ones. 

the interior of the home underneath the dovecote
San Francisco–based Schwartz and Architecture’s Neal J.Z. Schwartz has designed a 390-square-foot studio addition to his Sonoma, California home. Inspired by the mourning doves that share his property, Schwartz also incorporated a contemporary nesting area into the the addition’s roof. COURTESY DOUGLAS STERLING

A Modern Dovecote

The monolithic tower is plugged into one side of an existing 2,000-square-foot L-shaped home that embraces the adjacent vineyard views and was designed with passive cooling and heating in mind. Its unique vaulting makes manifest the height, orientation, proportion, and ventilation requirements most advantageous to the doves’ nesting with 12 boxes carved into the angular, cedar-clad facade. The custom roof is shingled with laser-cut metal tiles that nest together, minimizing construction waste while enhancing aesthetics. “In terms of technical details, I am proud of the feather roof because it was a true creative collaboration with the contractor and is significantly less expensive than a traditional standing seam metal roof,” explains Schwartz.

While the dovecote allows brooding birds to remain undisturbed by interior goings-on, the lower window permits inhabitants to view the doves’ ground-feeding rituals. Inside the chapel-like volume hangs a custom sheer silk curtain, printed with an image of flocking birds, divides the studio from the home, while adding to its venerability. “I am most proud of the space’s quality and how it is tailored to my sense of calm and contemplation,” says Schwartz. Soft coos resound like a hymn. 

the exterior of a gray home in Sonoma California

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]

More from Metropolis