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A custom home is more than a place to live, it is a place to thrive. Every component, from room size to window placements to outdoor access, can reflect the owner’s personality. In the hands of the right architect, design is limited only by imagination. Versatile and innovative building products, such as ALPOLIC metal composite materials (MCM), have started to make a mark in the luxury home design sphere.

Firms like Signum Architecture, known for its distinctive California wineries, are embracing the boutique residential market with designs that elevate daily living into a transformative experience. The name Signum itself, meaning design in Latin, speaks of the firm’s collaborative relationships with clients to bring their unique ideas to reality.

With one of its latest residential efforts, called Downtempo, Signum worked with the home’s owners to design and build a luxury retreat for entertaining friends and family on their lush mountain valley property between Sonoma and Napa counties. The owners envisioned a home that accommodated their contemporary art collection and allowed for seamless flow between indoor and outdoor relaxation. The pairing of the owners’ wishes with Signum’s commitment to sustainable design resulted in a sophisticated presence that blends with its natural surroundings.

Downtempo Residence.

Photo © Bruce Damonte, click to enlarge.


The New Napa Valley Home: Focusing on the Future

Jarrod Denton, partner at Signum Architecture, was familiar with the area and toured the site with the client before construction. For Downtempo, Denton presented his vision of a streamlined pallet that blended multiple building materials. Charred Shou Sugi Ban provides texture, cedar gives warmth, and TOB Black ALPOLIC metal composite materials creates an opulent frame. These three main components of Downtempo’s façade are pulled throughout the home’s interior for a clean and open aesthetic, creating a visual story that is rich and understated. The ALPOLIC MCM, in particular, added a special touch.

“If I didn't have the metal panels on there, it would have a whole different character for the building,” says Denton. “If it was all wood it just wouldn't have the crispness, the 90-degree corners.”

From the beginning, the Downtempo project had a clear point of view and a design that required premium MCM from ALPOLIC. “My goal was to keep the palette of materials to a minimum: cedar, shou sugi ban and the black metal composite materials. The durability of the material, with its factory finish, was another important factor, as was the ability to have flush panels. It also was impressive to see that the materials could be used effectively at a residential scale.”

With striking prescience, Denton had ALPOLIC on his radar for years, after visiting the company’s booth at an AIA National conference. While Denton had specified the products for past projects, he was glad to finally have the opportunity to introduce MCM into his housing portfolio. “Lots of products don’t translate well between commercial and residential,” explains Denton. Further, ALPOLIC’s expansive stock color portfolio allowed Denton to find a finish that suited his vision and budget. “It was very reasonable when it came to this, using ALPOLIC’s stock colors. And I designed around it.”

Downtempo Residence.

Photo © Bruce Damonte


Modular Construction for Sustainability Without Compromising Design

In addition to the atypical residential building material, this home’s uncommon formation relied heavily on the use of modular construction. “In order to build sustainably, we designed the home using a combination of prefabricated modular units and custom construction,” explained Denton. Six prefabricated units created the framework for the downstairs and five more were stitched together to create the second floor. Only about twenty percent of the construction was done on site.

The approach minimized the environmental impact on the area but came with a unique design challenge. As Denton explained, “One of the initial design goals that I envisioned for this area, once the decision to use modular was made, was to make sure that there was a cohesive, well thought out exterior.” Rigid and lightweight, sustainable ALPOLIC MCM was fabricated by Universe Corporation into long panels and installed by Fairweather Associates with no exposed fasteners and minimal reveals in service of the design. “From an overall aesthetic, that's what helps re-emphasize that this is a cohesive architectural element, as opposed to just amalgamation of all these individual modules or pieces at home,” said Denton.


Designed for fire safety with ALPOLIC®/fr

The construction of Downtempo was challenged by the elements, namely water and fire. Heavy rains required the exposed modules to be encased with scaffolding and plastic until the on-site roof construction could be completed. Building was further delayed by the Kinkade Fire, which burned close to the build site.

“Conditioned, ventless attic space, highly fire-resistant materials and an emphasis on minimizing fuel near the home mitigate fire risk, which is a very real threat in this area,” details Denton. ALPOLIC®/fr materials were specified to address the fire concerns of the region. These panels have been used in tested systems that have passed stringent testing such as the NFPA 285 and are designed to provide a highly fire-resistant skin for exterior walls.


Tailor-made Homes are a Collaboration

Denton looks for his projects to have a “light footprint,” meaning they are cohesive with the natural surroundings. “I have the luxury of creating custom homes for the Napa Valley. There is much to consider with the landscape, topography, weather conditions… all of these are huge factors in how we lay out a home.” He strives for sustainability and creating passive housing. But most of all, he wants to create a seamless living space for his clients to really connect with the beauty of the region.

Working closely with the design team, the owner of Downtempo wanted his home to be singular. Denton pitched durable ALPOLIC as a practical solution to the design challenges for modular homes, but the aesthetic appeal seemed to make the most impact for the avid art collector. “The vendor was extremely knowledgeable about the product, which was very helpful,” says Denton of including ALPOLIC in his specification.

The design presented was like nothing the owner had ever come across. The contrast of the slick black metal composite panels against the softer wood aesthetic appealed to the owner, who desired a modern, stand-out home. He was thrilled with the finished project. Of the many advantages of MCM, the owner was particularly pleased with the fire-resistant nature of ALPOLIC®/fr and that the look was practically maintenance-free. The owner simply schedules a low-pressure wash of the windows and cladding at the same time.

It is this versatility that makes ALPOLIC products a game-changer in the future of residential design. Says Denton of Downtempo’s overall look, “The ALPOLIC product is really what takes that to another level. It wouldn't have been the same without it. I absolutely would use this product again. The results are fabulous.”

Headquartered in the heart of California’s wine country, Signum has made its mark on the region with several innovative winery, hospitality, and custom home designs. “Our practice is highly collaborative, and we are passionate about bringing forth fresh design ideas and innovative technological solutions, regardless of project type, scale or budget,” says Denton. The firm continues to work with the beauty of the area while pushing design boldly forward, promising a future of definitive public spaces and homes that marry form and function with creativity.


Yajaida Pacheco is the marketing communications coordinator for Chesapeake, Va.-based Mitsubishi Chemical America's (MCA) ALPOLIC Division. For more information, email