Nestled in Silicon Valley, the Kelley Residence is an eclectic assemblage of pavilions—and a monument to the Milan-based designer’s inexhaustible creativity.
Silicon Valley may seem like an unlikely setting for a home designed by the Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass, but the upscale enclave of Woodside, California, boasts one of the three Sottsass-created residences in the United States. It was no easy feat to pull off—built for David Kelley, founder and chairman of global design consultancy IDEO and the Stanford d.school, the building was subject to conservative codes meant to preserve the area’s small-town character. In the end, the restrictions only galvanized Sottsass’s creativity. The 6,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house is reminiscent of a village with six linked pavilions, each a different shape, material, and color. The circa-2000 structure is not only an unadulterated expression of the Memphis Group’s founder’s design philosophy, but also a reflection of Sottsass and Kelley’s friendship.
In defiance of the American tradition of placing the garage in front and putting cars on display, the Kelley Residence features a simple, brick wall facade that extends a white awning in welcome.
A glass atrium holds together four of the six pavilions that make up the home. Sottsass considered hallways to be unimaginative, preferring to create a flexible village of connected spaces.
Oversized knobs add a whimsical touch to the kitchen, where a pendant designed by Johanna Grawunder—who worked with Sottsass in Milan—hangs over the circular island. White Viking appliances are integrated with the cabinetry.
Kelley requested a loft-like space for the main living area, but this idea was also jettisoned by Sottsass. Instead, he installed several cabinets made of plastic laminate made to look like rice paper between the living room and the kitchen. Passing from one area to another, guests move through them as though weaving through a forest. Sottsass told The New York Times,
Custom built-in furniture is found throughout the home, such as this piece in the living room. The Tahiti lamp, an abstracted and geometric bird shape, was designed for the 1981 Memphis collection, and the Olivetti Valentine typewriter turned a piece of office equipment into a fashion accessory.
The office boasts an 18-foot, barrel-vaulted ceiling, an architectural metaphor for inspiration and exaltation.
The master bedroom again defies convention by placing the pear wood and maple bedframe in the center of the room. A functional shelf activates the space behind it.
The master bathroom forges a connection to the outdoors through dark, forest green tile.
The disjunction between each pavilion is most visible from a rear view, which reveals the variety of materials used, from glass to wood to brick.
The pool and outdoor hot tub bounce green light off the roof hanging over the back terrace, creating a lush environment.
The lot originally housed the equestrian facilities of a larger, 10-acre estate. The stables, tack room, birthing shed, barn, and riding ring and turnouts still stand.
After Kelley's wife moved the horses to another property, he used one of the outbuildings as a design studio, and repurposed the barn for his classic car collection.