Palo Alto, California, Residence
CCS Architecture designed this 5,800 square foot home for a family of five in Palo Alto, California. The clients both work in the Silicon Valley, and they have 3 young children. The design is specific to their close-knit family needs as well as their rigorous sustainability standards. The architecture is contemporary, but it has warm, authentic materials and refined details to accommodate a casual, unpretentious lifestyle.
The home's bent, linear configuration divides the site; the public, street sides wrap the corner, creating a more private interior. A breezeway leads to the entry and the yard beyond, while also separating the main house from the garage and studio. The second floor bridges over these two and becomes the ceiling of the breezeway.
The lower part of the house has primary walls of highly crafted rammed earth made with soil excavated from the site. The upper floor, framed in wood and steel, is clad in wood siding plus aluminum panels. Between the two is an 18-inch ribbon of glass that admits soft light and views while making the upper floor appear as if it is floating.
The home's Genkan entry is a feature of Japanese houses. Exterior stone paving extends into the entry, where shoes are removed. The interior floor steps up six inches. Living functions--kitchen, dining, family room and office--inhabit the lower level, and all face a stone-paved courtyard with a Callery Pear tree. The yard beyond is landscaped with a synthetic lawn and drought-tolerant meadow grasses. An L-shaped interior façade with 65 feet of wood-framed, sliding glass doors, maximizes the indoor-outdoor connection. Circulation is a continuous flow that emphasizes the counterpoint between solid and open.
The second floor contains a library plus three bedrooms and two bathrooms. An 80-foot long "gallery of light" connects the bedrooms and bathrooms; its skylights and windows are designed to animate the walls with geometric shapes derived from washes of light and shadow.
The stairway between floors is located where the house bends to form an angle. It leads up through an open space that connects the library above to the home office below, with natural light filtering in from the clerestory windows at the raised roof.
Across the breezeway is the garage/studio building. The studio is a general work space, but it also has a full kitchen and bathroom for long-stay guests.
The homeowners opted to install meadows and synthetic turf grass rather than a traditional yard. The street sides are planted with a mix of Japanese Maples, Ginkgos and native grasses to create a privacy buffer. The site interior is planned for playing and outside living. Stone paving enhances the indoor-outdoor connections close to the house. The artificial lawn requires no maintenance and no water. The meadow beyond is laced with an infinite path, shaped like a figure-eight.
All landscaping is comprised of drought tolerant plants that can survive the hot Palo Alto summers with little water. The homeowners have planted a fully functional vegetable garden with citrus trees, herb garden, organic fruits and vegetables, and large composting bins.