Channeling Midcentury Modern in Northern California
It’s not surprising that a husband and wife who work in Silicon Valley would want to hire Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the architectural practice known for helping define Apple’s futuristic retail image, to create their home. What is unusual is that, instead of a high-tech laboratory whirring with the latest gizmos, the duo requested a tranquil abode based on a famously simple postwar Californian type.
"The design strategy for the project stemmed from a desire to make a private world isolated from the suburban density that is all around the property," says design principal Gregory Mottola, describing the single-story Los Altos home.
He, his team, and general contractor Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders plotted the project in such a way that it would embrace the region’s mild climate and local environment. The layout snakes around an existing Japanese maple tree and a meadow of tall native grasses planted by Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture. Natural ventilation cools the home in lieu of air conditioning.
Architecturally, the home’s horizontal figure, sloping roofline, and long eaves reference Northern California’s bumper crop of classic ranch houses. "We designed this home in the spirit of something that perhaps Rudolph Schindler or Richard Neutra might have done if they designed the house today," Mottola explains.
Inside, classic modern furniture selected by BCJ mingle with family heirlooms. "Our clients wanted us to design using natural materials in their natural state; every view of the house is beautiful, calm and simple," he says. Almost all the surfaces showcase a rich wood grain, with varieties including Douglas fir, western red cedar, and gray elm.
This reverence for nature extends beyond superficial appreciation: BCJ outfitted the home with dense insulation, low-flow water fixtures, and a photovoltaic array to ensure that nothing will go to waste.
All photos by Nic Lehoux