Designed around a specimen oak, this renovated midcentury has walls of glass and a natural palette to achieve a seamless connection with the outdoors.
When a pair of nature lovers purchased a hillside midcentury home south of San Francisco in Portola Valley, they were admittedly more taken with the stunning valley vistas than the house, whose original 1960s design had been long covered up by mismatched remodels. Yet, after living there for a few years, the couple decided to start a family and realized a renovation was finally in order.
Not only was extra living space necessary for the growing family of four, but the existing house also failed to take advantage of the striking views that drew the couple to the site. The homeowners tapped architect Malcolm Davis of San Francisco–based Malcolm Davis Architecture to redesign and expand the dwelling without damaging the many established oak trees.
After taking stock of the home’s midcentury elements, such as the original beamed ceilings and relatively open layout, Davis worked to bring greater natural light and a sense of flow to the home. In the main level’s open-plan living areas, Davis removed posts and swapped small windows for walls of glass. A new cantilevered balcony wraps around the dining room, bringing homeowners closer to the specimen oak tree at the center of the site.
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Downstairs, the architects dropped the floor to take advantage of the natural sloping site, bringing additional space, taller ceilings, and greater natural light to the interior. They then repurposed the master bedroom, which had been located on the lower level next to the swimming pool, into a media room.
Davis relocated the master bedroom to a new wing on the east side of the house, adjacent to the two existing kids’ bedrooms on the upper floor. Rather than continue the slope of the gabled roof, the architects created a butterfly roof to bring added light into the master bedroom.
The renovation also added a new structure to the west end of the property on the other side of a mature oak tree. A guest suite and a sitting room, named the lanai, occupy the ground floor, while an artist’s studio sits above and is connected via a bridge to the main house.
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"There is a playfulness to the house," Davis explains. "My clients think of it as a tree house, which is fitting given that their active lifestyle and love of the California landscape naturally merged with my own sensibilities and allowed us to create a relaxed and inviting backdrop for their lives."