The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
Five years ago, Ron Bigelow and his wife Ellis were seeking a nearly net-zero project in Menlo Park, California. They hoped to lessen their environmental impact (and their energy bills) with such a design. With the help of San Francisco-based firm Butler Armsden Architects, the Bigelows are now the proud owners of a Prairie-meets-midcentury modern home that's on track to receive LEED Platinum certification. The house's layout, a cluster of three pavilions connected by breezeways and a bridge, solves two problems. First, that arrangement help preserve trees on the site. Second, the semi-outdoor pathways among the three structures don't officially count towards the home's size, avoiding running afoul of building codes that limit aggregate square footage. From the start of the design process, the Bigelows played the unusual role of actually participating in a design charrette with the architects, eager to learn more about LEED in the process of designing their own home.
The Bigelows’ house throws a nod to its midcentury modern neighbors with its subdivided plan and shallow-pitched roof. The three pavilion layout was also partly in response to tough city restrictions regarding the removal of the various beech and redwood trees on the property. However, the Butler Armsden design team was able to use the profusion of trees to their advantage, creating lines of sight to foliage from almost anywhere in the house.
The exterior features locally reclaimed redwood siding that provides another connection with the redwoods on the site. The stucco is painted in custom color-matched Benjamin Moore paint.
The Bigelows were very involved in the design process, having studied up on LEED before even approaching Butler Armsden with rough sketches. The stairway was one such detail of the project that the homeowners had a clear vision for: light wood to match the rest of the interior, deep treads, and a gradual rise to help with accessibility. Across the breezeway, a Flexform chaise, woven chair, and coffee table stand atop Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood floors.
One of the three pavilions is an open, single-story space that combined the home's kitchen and great room. The Bigelows specifically liked the idea of a great room because it affords a flexible plan and airy atmosphere for entertaining. The Flexform furniture can become an in-the-round seating arrangement for impromptu piano sessions.
The Bigelows both like to cook and knew from the beginning that a kitchen island was essential. Custom FSC-certified wood cabinets with Makore wood veneer stand over a statuarietto marble countertop and De Sousa Hughes stools. The Cypree pendant lights are from LBL Lighting.
In addition to Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, the kitchen features an on-demand hot water recirculation pump that reduces wasteful water heating. Schwinn cabinet pulls adorn the custom cabinetry and the K7 faucet is from Grohe.
A bridge connects the second-floor office and guest bedroom with the backyard-facing master bedroom. To prevent excessive solar heat gain in this especial space, Butler Armsden used high performance Unilux low-e windows. Two Eurofase pendant lights from Chromos illuminate the hallway at night.
Sphinx, the family Carolina dog, scouts the perimeter of the Concrete Collaborative pavers in the backyard. The pavers were installed on a slight angle to channel water to the surrounding gravel, lawn, and planting beds. This substantially lowers the landscape's water demand. Perforated PVC pipes and a pump move excess rainfall (which would otherwise go to storm drains) into an underground basin where it can later drain off. Redwood fencing reflects the material palette of the interior and creates visual continuity around the backyard.
The three pavilions were placed along the lot's two natural north-south and east-west axes, delineated here by the concrete pavers. These axes helped both the homeowners and architects layout the pavilions, lap pool, and landscape elements. At night, the house shows off its nearly 100 percent LED lighting scheme.