Before & After: This Sleek California Home Is a Master Class on Minimalism
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Before & After: This Sleek California Home Is a Master Class on Minimalism

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By Melissa Dalton
A run-of-the-mill residence in the South Bay receives a John Pawson–inspired renovation that eschews all unnecessary detail.

When the new owners of this 1960s house located near Woodside, California, first saw the real estate listing, they looked past the hodgepodge of existing finishes that came courtesy of a previous builder’s remodel. Instead, the couple embraced the home’s potential, starting with the exterior.

"It's a privileged site because it has a very nice, large deck with views of the wooded area around it, and each of the rooms is kind of oriented towards the view," says architect Luat Duong of ltd Architecture. The goal of the new owners’ gut remodel became to "build it up as minimally as possible while maintaining the essence of the floor plan and accentuating the views," says Duong.

After: Front Door

The pared-back approach of the remodel begins with the front entry, where horizontal bands of orange-toned cedar were replaced with a refined wood screen.

Before: Entry

Before: A mishmash of elements from a previous remodel didn’t gel together in the 1960s-era home.

After: Entry

The white backdrop lets the black accents and wood grain in the pale, white-washed flooring stand out. A frameless glass railing melds with the surroundings.

To foster a more generous connection to the site, Duong and the owners replaced standard or small window and door units with enlarged and elongated openings. Now, a long and linear ribbon window runs the length of the kitchen counter. In the living room, the walls were thickened to accommodate large glass pocket doors for a seamless transition between the interior and the deck.

Before: Living Room

Before: A cedar accent wall was a strong dose of unwanted color. The exterior door was doubled in size.

After: Living Room

Huge header beams and thickened walls allow for a generous opening between the living room and deck, with doors that recess into the wall cavity and a seamless meeting between the indoor floor and the exterior decking.

Before: Kitchen

Before: The previous kitchen finishes skewed to a traditional aesthetic.

After: Kitchen

Black wall ovens, streamlined pendants, and a Vola faucet offer notes of contrast in the all-white kitchen. Solid-colored Corian covers the counters and the backsplash. On the window wall, the Corian backsplash is flush with white-painted drywall at the end of the counter run.

In their first conversation, Duong introduced the homeowner to the work of John Pawson, a British architectural designer known for minimal design. Once the owner looked Pawson up, says Duong, "He was drawn to that aesthetic right away. And since I also work in that vein, we clicked right away with some of our conversations in terms of the aesthetics of house." 

Without altering the floor plan much, the team gutted the interior in order to introduce a tightly pared-back palette consisting of white walls, black fixtures and window frames, and light-washed wood tones. For instance, the previous dark flooring was swapped out for wide plank, white-washed European oak, which runs continuously throughout, its natural patina some of the only pattern in the main rooms of the house. 

Before: Office

Before: "The thing with the rooms in the existing house was that the windows were small and they framed some views, but you really wanted…more of an inside-outside experience, especially with that deck being there," says Duong.

After: Office

A new sliding door offers a streamlined black frame for the view outside.

An integrated desk and wall shelf, the latter incorporating hidden LED lighting, frame a ribbon window that appears frameless to better merge with the treetop view. 

The view down the hall to the office shows how the spaces flow together.

Such simplicity might seem straightforward, but instilling it in a post-World War II house with crooked walls and uneven floors takes a talented team. Duong paired up with builder Devlin McNally Construction, as they’ve collaborated on such projects before. 

"The clients were great, and they were very supportive of a rigorous design and detailing," says Duong. "Some of those simpler details are the ones that have to be very considered. It was a very collaborative effort between the contractor and ourselves." 

Before: Deck

Before: The deck was expanded to enhance the home’s outdoor experience.

After: Deck

The wood screen continues at the back of the house. The spacing on the slats was very carefully thought out so as to disguise the sheen of the waterproofing membrane beneath it.

In addition to the wood screening, the house is finished in smooth-trowel stucco with black-framed openings to maintain the high contrast palette inside and out.

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