Margarido House / Onion Flats

© Mariko Reed

This single family home in the hills of Oakland, CA, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco, is designed to merge comfortably into it’s difficult and steeply sloped site. It is also meant to provide a tranquil yet inspiring setting for a young couple, their two children and their aging in-laws. The physical site offered the project its greatest challenge and direction. It’s 17% slope coupled with height restrictions and adjacencies to neighboring homes required that the building be “bunkered” into the landscape. This became the source of the project’s programmatic, spatial and architectural strategy, which is centered around the entry or “knuckle” of the building.

Architect: Onion Flats (Plumbob Llc)
Location: Oakland, , USA
Owner / Developer: Mike McDonald (McDonald Construction & Development Inc.)
Interior Design & Construction Administration: Medium Plenty (Ian Read)
Structural Engineer: St. Onge & Associates
Green Roof & Rainwater Harvesting: G.R.A.S.S. (Green Roots And Solar Systems)
General Contractor: McDonald Construction & Development Inc.
Photographs: Mariko Reed

© Mariko Reed

This ‘knuckle’ functions as a ‘de-bunkering’ device for the building. It is also the organizational space of transition between the more public and private domains of the home. The ‘knuckle’ is a result of a subtle yet deliberate carving and terracing of the landscape away from the building, releasing it from bunkered status and creating an experience of tranquility and lightness in this heavily grounded building.

© Mariko Reed

Sustainable Elements:

  • Planted roof garden and deck
  • 4000-gallon rain and ground water reclamation tanks
  • Drought tolerant landscaping
  • Pervious paving
  • In floor hydronic heating
  • Solar electric power
  • Solar thermal (hot water)
  • Interior air quality management system
  • Locally sourced thermally broken doors & windows
  • Concrete with a minimum of 25% fly ash
  • Recycled concrete and glass counters
  • Soy based spray foam insulation
  • No-VOC paints and finishes
  • Smart house automation system
  • LED lighting
© Mariko Reed
© Mariko Reed
© Mariko Reed
Cite: "Margarido House / Onion Flats" 04 Apr 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • Alexander Gore

    The light in the bathroom looks heavenly.

  • shyam kumar

    yup…..beautiful spaces…