Virtually windowless when seen from the street, the home that San Francisco–based architect Craig Steely recently completed looks more like sculpture than residence at first glance. Yet the unusual exterior—a curving, one-story structure clad in vertical planks of cedar—is a smart solution devised to satisfy the client’s requests for indoor/outdoor living.
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"The lot is long and narrow, and her view on all sides was of the backs of the neighboring houses which (like most typical suburban houses) are huge and blank," Steely explains of his client’s challenging property in Atherton, California.
"But above these neighboring houses, the mature tree canopy and sky were alive, constantly changing and breathtaking. Focusing on this view ‘up’ rather than horizontally ‘out,’ we created a seemingly roofless house that surrounds the living spaces by huge outdoor courtyards that direct the view up."
An approximately 100-foot-long breezeway extends down the west side of the structure and branches off to the open-plan living areas flooded with natural light. The north side of the property consists of the kitchen, dining room, and living area arranged in an L shape whereas the master suite and additional bedroom are located on the southern end.
"What sets this building apart is the continuous curving wall that surrounds it," continues the architect.
The winding wall serves as a cocoon around the home, hiding less desirable views while refocusing attention upwards and serving as a backdrop against which sunlight and shadows play. "At its most elemental, the curving wooden wall creates a visual backdrop seen through the interior landscape of plants and birch trees, animated by the shadows moving across it all day," says Steely.
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Builder/ General Contractor: Drew Maran Construction
Structural Engineer: Strandberg Engineering
Civil Engineer: Lea and Braze
Landscape Design Company: Elias Gonzalez
Lighting Design: Craig Steely Architecture
Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Drew Maran Construction