Portola Valley Redux

When our clients first approached us, it was to adapt the current house to fit their active, outdoor lifestyle. They loved their neighborhood and their location, but could not abide the gloomy, dated interior.

The existing non-descript rancher had been expanded several times and was a disjointed jumble of segregated rooms: An isolated kitchen, tiny dining room, and no family room. It was missing two bedrooms, and lacked closet space. The interior was dark and oppressing due to the heavily-wooded hill in the rear garden and as a result, the clients spent most of their time in the narrow backyard.

Initially, we explored remodeling the current house in consideration of our clients’ financial and environmental concerns. However, after investigating the site and the building program, it became apparent that it would be more cost efficient to deconstruct the existing house, allowing us to shift the new plan forward towards the slope to gain an expansive usable rear yard.  In an effort to preserve all of the mature trees on the hilly east slope of the site, (while keeping a rather steep driveway in place), the house floor plan was distilled into an elegant narrow rectangle.

The major public rooms are linear, progressing from a two-story entry/mudroom, to the living room and great room with open kitchen and cantilevered dining room. A den towards the rear allows for noisy play (pre-teens run amok) while a covered outdoor living space/kitchen facilitates the family’s desire to live outdoors year round.

Adjacent is the wife’s private study (a photographer) which provides her privacy while allowing direct access to the kitchen, perfect for a modern mother who is used to multitasking. On the opposite side of the house near the living room is a guest suite that will allow the grandparents to visit while sheltering them from the nosier activity anticipated in the great room.

The upper level contains three bedroom suites (the children do not get along) with a larger master complete with large walk-in closet and spa-like bath.  The study upstairs has a deck that affords a lovely view of an ancient oak tree and is reserved for the father, an avid electric guitar player.  An outdoor bridge leads to the living roof/sport court above the new subterranean two-car garage.

The architectural language is elemental and modern to engage the landscape. The living space is expressed as an open concrete box that allows filtered light, affording exquisite hillside views. Vertical western red cedar adds a natural warmth, allowing the house to bridge its wooded environment.