Four Pavilions Balance Privacy and Togetherness in This Silicon Valley Abode

Courtyard House in Menlo Park, California, encourages a family with two teenagers to be independent while staying connected—to each other, and the outdoors.

When architect John Lum was tasked with creating a house for a family of four in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park, he knew it wouldn't be a standard, suburban space.

"The clients wanted a family-style house for themselves and their two daughters, but could not find anything they liked, so decided to tear down and build," he explains. "They didn't want a modern farmhouse, but something that was a more classic, modern design."

"We used a simple material palette—western red cedar, blackened steel, and glass—which helps create a timeless design," architect John Lum says.

Aesthetics aside, Lum was asked to create a space that could cater to his clients' and their two teenagers' growing needs.

"We wanted a house that facilitated spending time together and allowed us to be in the same space, even if we’re not all doing the same thing," say the homeowners, who asked to remain anonymous. "Our teenagers want to be independent, so we tried to combine independence and togetherness."

The final product—four wood-clad pavilions, connected by glass walkways, that surround a central courtyard—deftly marries form and function. While the 6,922-square-foot, two-story space is divvied up into sections for eating, sleeping, and living, Courtyard House is designed to evolve as the family's needs do.

Intuitive design and strategically placed appliances increase the kitchen's overall efficiency.

"Our vegan daughter could be making avocado toast while the carnivore is heating up leftover chili, and we're sitting at the island talking with them," the clients say. 

Rounding out the house are a raised swimming pool, wine cellar, two private offices, as well as four bedrooms and eight bathrooms.

But thought-provoking pavilions are only one piece of the property puzzle.  Inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Bay Area regionalism, Lum used the property’s landscape to create a home that would receive Mother Nature's seal of approval. 

A glass-and-steel staircase leads upstairs to the private sleeping quarters, which are connected via a bridge. "Setting the bedrooms in a separate area lets everyone feel like they have a place to call their own," the clients say. 

"The area’s year-round mild climate allowed us to create the quintessential California indoor/outdoor lifestyle in which we were able to usher in fresh air and daylight throughout," he explains.

Not only do all pavilions have direct access to the outdoors, but Lum also studied the property's daylight patterns to ensure the space is as sun-drenched as can be. Additionally, he installed radiant heating and a whole-house fan to mimic a cool, California breeze.

"Overall, the lot was flat and grassy with a few beautiful trees," Lum says. "We nestled the house among the heritage redwood tree and the other mature oaks on the property."

The clients love how the green, untamed landscape softens the impact of the minimalist structure, making the house feel like it's one with nature. 

Lum agrees: "It's wonderful that when you’re in the house, you feel like you’re living in a garden." 

Large walls of glass gives the home a light box effect at night.

A string of glass hallways connect the four pavilions, bringing a slice of the great outdoors inside. 

Interior designer Stephanie Zaharias sourced pieces from brands like Article, Filz Felt, Design Within Reach, and more.


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