Walls of Glass Transform a Hillside 1956 Duplex in California
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Walls of Glass Transform a Hillside 1956 Duplex in California

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By Kathryn M.
Two architects transform a modest midcentury home, incorporating walls of glass that yield 180-degree views of the San Francisco Bay.

Perched on a hillside in Oakland, California, this 1956 duplex was reimagined as a contemporary residence by Bay Area architects Bridgett Shank and Megan Carter. As principals of their own firms —Shank of Timbre Architecture and Carter of CB Design—the duo personally took on the purchase and renovation, wanting a project to test out long-held ideas from years of client work. 

To make the most of the home’s dramatic views and sunny disposition, Shank and Carter transformed the home with such features as a glazed rear facade and cupula-like roof structure that they call a ‘light monitor.’

A rear view of the home showcasing the glazed facade. The upper-level living and dining areas feature large sliders that open up to an expansive deck.

The architects refer to their design as the ‘Plus House,’ named for the floor plan’s cross-like intersection of the horizontal glazing system with the centrally placed vertical staircase and light monitor. Long banks of floor-to-ceiling glass stretch across both the upper-level living room and lower-level bedrooms, flooding the spaces in natural light. With 38 linear feet of glass between the two levels, the architects fulfilled their vision using products from Western Window Systems.

Upon entering the home, a central gathering of clerestory windows immediately focuses the view. Architects Bridgett Shank and Megan Carter refer to this architectural feature as a ‘light monitor.’

"The original midcentury home had excellent bones but an awkward layout, particularly the top unit. We had this vision to merge the upper and lower levels with a central staircase, while we decided to gut the upper level and created one large living area," describes Carter. "The second-story ceiling already had this great grid and exposed beams; it was a simple, classic shape that allowed us to turn it into something really beautiful," adds Shank.

Flanking each side of a central window in the living and dining space are two massive Series 600 Sliding Glass Doors from Western Window Systems. Such large doors create a strong indoor-outdoor connection for entertaining and enjoying the bay breeze.

An original Douglas fir ceiling runs throughout the main floor. Shank and Carter added a teak-veneered fireplace to create a contemporary feel for the space.

"Ultimately, our goal with the renovation was to just get out of the way of the view—not to block or distract from it," says Carter. "Instead of going for bi-folding doors that would open up the entire wall, we felt the grid was a stronger architectural element and decided to go with the individual sliding doors. We really wanted the windows to reinforce the grid but still achieve the expansive glass," adds Shank.

Countertops and cabinets form a buffet area in the dining room, extending seamlessly from the kitchen. As in the living room, a matching Series 600 Sliding Glass Door opens to the deck.

Homeowners Hannah Cho and Mark Wei appreciate how the walls of glass allow them to embrace the scenery and indoor-outdoor living. "We fell in love with the view when we first saw the house, and each day we see something different, from a colorful sunset to foggy morning," says Cho. "We just had some friends over for a barbecue, and we were out on the deck when the fog started to envelope us. It felt like we were in the clouds," she adds.

An open kitchen was rebuilt to face the rear courtyard. Contemporary features include a pop of color contrasting with teak veneer cabinetry and other wood tones.

Three bedrooms are situated on the lower level, with a master suite along the entire right side and two guest bedrooms along the left. Although the master suite has an excellent view, Wei describes how friends gush over the guest bedroom: "Whenever we have someone stay overnight, they are blown away by the space, especially the view, which is the best in the house."

The guest bedroom offers an impressive view. Expansive clerestory and picture windows from Western Window Systems complete the floor-to-ceiling effect.

From the exterior, generously sized windows and doors create sightlines throughout the home. "When you are sitting in the side courtyard, you can look through the large slider in the kitchen and out through the rear glazing to the view. The flexible sizes available from Western allowed us to incorporate glasswork that perfectly fit this space," says Carter.

A courtyard along the side yard provides additional entertaining space off the kitchen. Large sliding doors and windows from Western Window Systems provide a sightline out the glazed rear of the home.

"There’s a certain aesthetic to Western—especially if we want the contemporary look, with big expanses of glass, thin profiles, and the aluminum system appearance," adds Carter. From looking through the striking glazed facade to capturing an unexpected glance from the courtyard, this modern home yields to its most natural feature: the view.

Project Credits: 

Architect: Timbre Architecture / @timbre_architecture 

Architect: CB Design

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