A Sustainable, Tree House-Like Home Rises Amidst the Redwoods in Palo Alto
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A Sustainable, Tree House-Like Home Rises Amidst the Redwoods in Palo Alto

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By Kathryn M.
Gently resting on a slender lot in Silicon Valley, this award-winning dwelling balances indoor/outdoor living with ample privacy.

Sprawling across 5,870 square feet, Tree House by Aidlin Darling Design is set on a long, narrow property in Palo Alto, California. Consisting of interlocking volumes clad in zinc, cedar, stucco, and glass, this L-shaped two-story abode offers expansive living spaces that extend into the landscape. 

The slender two-story residence is clad in zinc, stucco, cedar, and glass. A low-lying garage sits at the front of the home.

The slender two-story residence is clad in zinc, stucco, cedar, and glass. A low-lying garage sits at the front of the home.

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When the clients—a young couple with two children—approached the San Francisco–based firm, they brought specific criteria to the design process. They yearned  for a home that was spacious and open, but they also wanted the dwelling to offer cozy and quiet areas of refuge.

The 5,870-square-foot home gracefully stretches in a linear fashion from the front to the back of the lot. It rests atop a concrete plinth—a response to the site's high water table.

The 5,870-square-foot home gracefully stretches in a linear fashion from the front to the back of the lot. It rests atop a concrete plinth—a response to the site's high water table.

Dense suburbs often pose challenges for architects seeking to maximize indoor/outdoor living while providing privacy. In this case, the property's anchoring coastal live oaks and redwoods inform a spatial arrangement of framed views, outdoor rooms, and cover for privacy.

The home’s concrete floors, wood ceilings, and glazed expanses strengthen its connection with the outdoor landscape.

The home’s concrete floors, wood ceilings, and glazed expanses strengthen its connection with the outdoor landscape.

Comprised of two levels, the ground floor is divided into two zones. An open-plan kitchen, dining area, and living room are located in one, while an office, a gym, and a den are housed in the other. The zones are separated by a corridor, which flows through the center of the residence.

A contemporary Lindsey Adelman chandelier hangs elegantly in the living room, complementing the dark furnishings and sleek finishes.

A contemporary Lindsey Adelman chandelier hangs elegantly in the living room, complementing the dark furnishings and sleek finishes.

The upper level holds three bedrooms and a light-filled master suite. "This volume is defined by the house's canopy," explains the firm, "which also serves to edit unwanted views and afford mutual privacy."

The richly textured wooden staircase lined with glazed banisters contrasts beautifully with the interior ivory walls and concrete floors.

The richly textured wooden staircase lined with glazed banisters contrasts beautifully with the interior ivory walls and concrete floors.

To further the home's indoor/outdoor connection, the architects created an expansive shaded terrace at the rear of the property, which is juxtaposed with the backyard pool.

To further the home's indoor/outdoor connection, the architects created an expansive shaded terrace at the rear of the property, which is juxtaposed with the backyard pool.

 A glass-walled balcony sits directly above the concrete terrace.

 A glass-walled balcony sits directly above the concrete terrace.

The second floor provides a lofty perch within the two-story volume. On the ground floor, "a concrete plinth, steel and glass armature, and zinc skin respond to the site's high water table, and resonate with its natural splendor."

A peek into the sleek, spacious kitchen, featuring floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.

A peek into the sleek, spacious kitchen, featuring floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.

A larger Lindsey Adelman chandelier hangs in the foyer, located off the double-height entryway.

A larger Lindsey Adelman chandelier hangs in the foyer, located off the double-height entryway.

Related Reading: A Midcentury Home Peeks Above the Forest CanopyThe Everyday Carry of an Architect: Kent Chiang of Aidlin Darling Design

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Aidlin Darling Design / @aidlindarlingdesign

Builder: DeMattei Construction

Structural Engineer: Berkeley Structural Design

Civil Engineer: Bay Land Consulting

Landscape Design: SurfaceDesign Inc.

Cabinetry Design: Bay Area Cabinetry

Other Companies: Cornerstone Earth Group & Energy Design Group