A Bold Circular Home Radiates Outward From Its Futuristic Kitchen

A Bold Circular Home Radiates Outward From Its Futuristic Kitchen

Feldman Architecture reimagines a 1960s residence that hovers over a nature preserve in California’s Bay Area.

When Meera Agrawal and her husband walked into a quirky midcentury home in Los Altos Hills, California, they were already three-and-a-half-years deep into their house hunt—having sifted through over 1,000 listings and visited nearly 30 in person. "We walked in thinking, ‘We’ve seen so many homes. This is likely not it,’" Meera says. They walked out, however, with the same unexpected realization: "‘Oh my God, this is the one!’"

Clad in Accoya shou sugi ban siding from Delta Millworks, Round House floats gracefully over the landscape and recedes into nature.

While the home’s nearly circular, faceted geometry was intriguing, the low ceilings, peculiar layout, and wedge-shaped rooms made it a wild card of sorts in the Agrawals’ property search. Affectionately dubbed the "doughnut house," it had an open area in the center containing an internal courtyard—puzzlingly, entering the home involved first walking through and underneath it, followed by a spiral ascent to the main level courtyard. "We’ve never seen anything like it!" the couple says.

Before: The original home, built in 1965, "was really interesting and very awkward at the same time," recalls architect Steven Stept. While there was a tremendous view, much of it was blocked by the eaves of the roof.

Chopping off the original roof eaves and raising the walls to create higher ceilings helped unlock greater views, giving the home a true panoramic experience.

Relocating from San Francisco with their two young children, Meera, a designer and principal at Mountain View–based AP+I Design, and her husband, a radiologist, saw past the home’s peculiarities and ultimately fell in love with the dazzling views and its desirable location. Perched high in the hills, bordering Rancho San Antonio Preserve—protected open space which could never be developed—the home had a secluded and remote feeling, while still being just five minutes from the freeway. 

Just as importantly, the home’s interior hadn’t seen a major remodel in decades—a plus for Meera, who was eager to put her creative stamp on it. "Between my dream of being able to design a home, and my husband’s dream of being in a secluded area where it’s very peaceful and quiet, it kind of worked out," she says.

Bordering the protected Rancho San Antonio Preserve, the home enjoys sweeping views of the North and South Bay, from the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, to Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, to the Stanford campus, all the way up to the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

A flat front yard, with drought-tolerant landscaping and a spa, is a place for gardening, lawn games, and congregating with guests.

The initial plan was to do a modest remodel of the residence, which was one of a handful of circular homes built in California in the 1960s. "I have a soft spot for preserving what’s there," says Meera. "For a while, it was just a finishes project." However, once things started failing in the older home, the project morphed into something bigger. "At that point, we thought, ‘We should probably do it right, but we can still pay homage to the original design,’" she says.

Between the challenging site, steep slope, atypical geometry, and supply chain delays, construction was no easy feat—the home’s foundation alone took about 17 months to complete. 

The couple soon linked up with Steven Stept, managing partner of Feldman Architecture, whom they had coincidentally met several years prior while touring another property under consideration. Reconnecting in a moment of kismet, the group soon discovered a shared excitement for reimagining the quirky doughnut house, and eagerly began brainstorming ideas for its transformation. Working on a circular structure was uncharted territory for the Feldman team—a first they were undaunted by. "From day one, we thought, ‘What a fun opportunity to try to see what we could do with a circular house,’" Stept says. "We were excited by it."

Engineered to withstand seismic shaking and twisting, the concentric design borrows from nature. "We took some inspiration from things that are naturally very strong structures," the homeowners explain. "There’s tons of circular steel, and it’s all crossed and connected to each other. That’s a spider web."

Dreamed up and rigged by builder and site superintendent David Toews, a life-sized compass of sorts—16 feet tall with a 45-foot-long boom—ensures meticulous angular precision during the complex build.  

The home is carefully mapped out from the radial center, where the compass was anchored. Once construction wrapped, the family kept the compass base as a memento; it now serves as the front door stop.

Los Altos Hills, incorporated in the 1950s as a rural-like South Bay suburb, was designed with large, non-uniform lots and somewhat restrictive building codes protecting open space, trees, and views. The lot’s size and steep slope meant that if the home was built by today’s regulations, it would max out at a compact 1,020 square feet—making it much more beneficial to work with the existing design. After tracking down the original building permit and negotiating with the city, the team eventually got approval for a comprehensive redesign—as long as they didn’t exceed the original permitted square footage.

Gently curving retaining walls and the grounding concrete garage create a carefully curated and progressive entry experience.

An ascent past a green wall and other layered plantings brings residents and visitors to the front entry, where the Blomberg pivot door provides a first glimpse into the home.

Maximizing functional square footage, the strategy of the reconfiguration hinged on "filling in" the circle, converting the once open courtyard to interior space—an easy concession for the Agrawals. They had lived in the home for several years before diving into the project, and had rarely used the space. To compensate, other interior spaces were "pulled out," preserving the same net floor area as required, while creating a more expansive and considered outdoor zone. 

"I think the breakthrough came when we said, ‘The kitchen should be the hub. It should be the center for this house,’" recalls Stept. The kitchen as the literal and figurative heart of the home made sense for this family, and for Meera, an avid baker, in particular. In addition to gathering in the space with friends and family and baking sweet treats for birthdays, Meera teaches baking classes in the home’s kitchen. "I basically designed this space to be like a teaching kitchen," she says. 

The kitchen anchors the home as the central hub, cementing its importance in the family’s life. With light streaming in from the skylight above, a circular island includes recessed Bocci outlets at the perimeter to power dedicated workstations for Meera’s baking classes. "I love the kitchen. It’s probably my favorite spot," she says. "Baking brings me joy."

"As much as I possibly could, I wanted things to be concealed and not exposed," Meera says of the kitchen’s streamlined aesthetic. A paneled dishwasher and Sub-Zero fridge help achieve the look, along with clean white counters—Wilsonart Quartz in Marble Falls—and custom flat cut walnut millwork by Ralph King Cabinetry.

The kitchen is open to the home’s public space, and intimately connected to the jaw-dropping views beyond. Three Sculptural Glass Geo Pendants from West Elm hang above the kitchen peninsula, while the living room includes a custom West Elm Andes Sofa in Ink Blue Distressed Velvet, along with an ​​Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. The outdoor dining area features a Diablo Extension table in Charcoal and Formed Chairs in Black, both by Terra Outdoor Living.

Finding balance between respecting the existing plan and optimizing the new program, the layout was rearranged to maximize views. "I think when we started to really unpack it and realize programmatically what the opportunity of the site was, we decided to put the living room where you can really take in this view and open these windows and create this panoramic experience," says Stept.

With the circular kitchen positioned prominently at the home’s precise center, everything else radiates outward. Switching the public and private spaces allowed the new living room and outdoor dining area, along with the large wraparound deck, to take advantage of the sweeping views—once monopolized by private bedrooms. The home’s upper-level bedrooms are now positioned on the opposite, more private side, enjoying a protected hillside view. 

Balancing soft and hard, warm and cold, the primary bedroom’s stained oak floors are an answer to the cool gray concrete elsewhere in the home. "My fear is that I didn’t want it to look too cold," Meera says. "That's why I tried to bring as much wood into it as I could, and incorporate the soft furnishings to make it feel more comfortable." A Nook Bed by Blu Dot was chosen for the space, completed with a ​​Brooklinen Classic Duvet in Window Pane. An Emmet Sling Chair in Dakota Tobacco by Burke Decor is perfectly positioned to enjoy the private hillside view. 

The luminous primary bathroom features an Aquatica Purescape 171 Freestanding Tub, along with matte black faucets from Crosswater London. The pendant above the tub is a Gino Sarfatti Model No. 2065 Ceiling Light.

Throughout the home, the design’s success is largely due to an unwavering commitment to the concept. "Once we took on the challenge of really respecting the circle to the nth degree, that really created the plan—and created all the details too," says Stept. From the stainless steel inlays that radiate from the center of the kitchen’s concrete floors, to the curvature of the impressively massive pocket door, to the tapering of the boards on the deck, the details strengthen the design. "That’s something we try to do a lot in the office," says Stept. "Once you have a concept that’s a strong one, just don’t ever forget about it, and try to push through it all the way to the end," he says.

Honoring the concept, vertical screens continue the circular path around the kitchen. "That was, in a way, a continuation of the shape of the circle without being either a line on the floor or a solid wall," explains Stept.

A giant curved pocket door from Fleetwood—the first of its kind—removes the barrier between outside and in. The deck boards are carefully tapered to fit perfectly together as they radiate outward from the interior.

A large wraparound deck can be accessed from each of the four upper-level bedrooms, encouraging fluid connection with the home’s serene natural surroundings. An Opalhouse Southport Patio Egg Chair from Target invites quiet lounging on the side deck. 

A collaborative venture through and through, all of the design elements, small and large, were made possible by considered input from Feldman Architecture project manager Anjali Iyer and builder David Toews—both passionate about respecting the concept and getting the details right. Meera brought her design expertise to every inch of the home, reviewing cabinet shop drawings and meticulously specifying finishes and fixtures throughout. "We had the same sort of vision," Meera says of the Feldman team. "We’d meet every other week for three hours, sketching details and exchanging ideas."

Beyond the imaginative design and technically skilled execution, the home, at its core, is a vessel for experiencing the ethereal beauty of the surroundings. "I just love the way the building opens up to the land, how it interacts with the site," says Stept. "The views and just the experience — what it really feels like from inside out—that, to me, is maybe the biggest success of the project."

The home enjoys a spectacular sunset from its hillside perch. Acapulco Lounge Chairs in Pink from CB2 grace the front lawn.

The circular home floats above the land, surrounded by the wooded hillside. "You feel like you’re amongst the trees," says Meera.

Round House by Feldman Architecture floor plan

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