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Los Altos Hills, California

Client goals

Two very bright and focused clients desire a new home to start a family, entertain large numbers of guests and accommodate their visiting relatives for lengthy stays. They wish to maximize the views in all directions and connect the indoor and outdoor either by view or access. They desire an unusual home with an elaborate roof for character, a Mediterranean style exterior and a mix of ethnic decors with an interesting flow for the interior. A world-class swimming pool with lush landscaping was also in their wish list. Their site has views of the city lights, pastoral lands and woods. It has an easement road at the southwest side and at the west side a neighbor's house within view.

Proposed Design Solution

The narrow area between the set back lines at the north side was selected as the building site because it had the best views and sun exposure. It also placed the house away from the easement road. A giant canopy and turnaround welcomes the guests suggesting a porte cochere. The garage and well-placed landscape blurs the presence of the easement road while few windows at the west side give privacy from the neighbor's house.

The lot zoning did not allow for a house as large as the clients needed. Since basement areas, without direct outdoor access through doors and windows, do not compute as square footage, we chose to have a full-plus basement with a multipurpose-exercise/party room, theater, service and overflow guest quarters. To solve the problem of natural lighting into some of these areas the swimming pool was designed and oriented to act as a giant sky light with large areas of glass built-in at the sides, resembling an aquarium and opening into the multipurpose room. At nighttime the lights of the pool create the atmosphere at the party room.

At the first level, all rooms are visually or physically interconnected. Doors to the outdoors are used instead of windows, opening into patios, lawn terraces and gardens. The long overhang off the kitchen resembles the entry canopy and acts as a shelter at the pool deck from the afternoon sun. The second level offers privacy needed in a house for multiple guests.

The roof is like two giant butterfly wings. Each one of its segments opens out to a particular view. The low pitch gives the house a low profile from the street, but the roof intricacy can be fully appreciated by looking down from the bedrooms and the roof decks. As the roof gently steps down with the hillside, so do the patios, lawn terraces, lower pool and gardens. The house unique design does not reveal itself completely to the street viewers. Instead, it is a discovery experience for private guests.