A spectacular hillside just north of San Francisco inspired both the form and plan of this 4,000-square-foot house by the eponymous firm House + House Architects. To maximize outdoor living space and indoor views, Steven House and project architect Amena Hajjar limited the plan's width and pushed its L-shaped footprint to the edge of a natural shelf in the steep slope. The kitchen, living, and dining areas are choreographed around a triad of open spaces that take advantage of those views, but the “whole wing of the house was set up to relate easily to the kitchen,” says House.

Because the owner is an avid cook for family and friends, she sought a finely tuned yet welcoming hub. She wanted the kitchen to capture not only hilltop views but also those of the courtyard where her young twin daughters would play. She also wanted her home office just steps away, and the garage and front entry nearby. What she didn't want were people traipsing through her work zone. Placing the kitchen just off an open circulation spine, but protected by partitions, secured the perimeter. The partitions stop well short of the 14-foot-high ceiling, allowing light and air to flow. Designed as a friendly barrier, a floating wet bar perched on a stainless column doubles as a comfortable lookout to Mount Tamalpais. Across the room, a built-in banquette encased in glass cantilevers into the same incredible vistas.

All of this functionality is wedged into 289 square feet of hyper-efficient space. “Arrangement of appliances was key for the owner,” says Hajjar, who consulted closely with the client. The work triangle positions the sink at its apex, with stove and refrigerator at opposite ends. A square island puts storage within reach of every workstation. Tucked under the upper cabinet run, a strip of electrical outlets meets code without marring the monolithic granite backsplash. Multipurpose counter space encompasses an inlaid cutting board, recessed appliance garage, and microwave cubby. And the walk-in pantry hides everything else, including itself—thanks to a clever layering of materials and wall heights.