- Design Team: Steven Ehrlich, Takashi Yanai, Peter Hamilton, Brendan Canning, Gavin Argo
- Kitchen Consultant: Bulthaup
- Architectural Metal: Chris French Metal
- City: Palo Alto
- Country: United States
Text description provided by the architects. Designed for a young couple, the 5,000 sf home and 1,700 sf back house sit on a flat 21,000 sf lot in a 1920’s Palo Alto neighborhood. The architecture is a study in strong simple composition and highly refined materiality with an emphasis on craft. The massing defines solid and void, captures natural light, and connects the indoors with the landscape, seeking to ‘experience the outdoors from within.’
The ground floor volumes wrapped in an elongated hand-fired brick from Denmark, emphasizing the horizontality of the architecture that lays solidly on the land. Bronze-trimmed ceiling planes slide between the brick masses, and floor-to-ceiling glazed openings are captured by thin-profiled bronze frames.
In contrast to the grounded brick volumes, the second floor is clad in stainless steel panels and oversized aluminum-framed windows. The lightness and openness of the second floor is nestled among the oak-tree canopies of the site. At the basement level, a wine cellar and tasting room open to a sunken landscaped courtyard. A 30ft by 10ft continuous pane of glass runs alongside the grand stairwell of floating stone steps, connecting the three levels of the house.
Due to the unprecedented size of this glass in residential design, it was custom manufactured in Germany and shipped to California. This dramatic moment in the sequence of progressing through the house helps visitors feel connected to the lush landscape outside.
Inside the house, materials such as a custom leather door and bronze anodized details were selected for their unique craftsman-style quality. Another custom-designed element is the steel mesh screen that wraps around to enclose the kitchen for privacy, separating this from the more public “guest hosting” areas adjacent. The steel screen slides along a track embedded into the teak slatted ceiling and disappears into the pantry when retracted.
A freestanding structure set deep back into the site is a zen-like fitness/yoga studio as well as a guesthouse with a kitchenette. This dramatic stone mass opens up completely in the center to give the impression of exercising outdoors. The landscape integrates California native plant species, grasses and trees to compliment the materiality of the architecture.