Launch Slideshow

Palo Alto, Calif., Residence

Palo Alto, Calif., Residence

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    Home theater speakers are concealed behind a family room soffit. The soffit becomes a striking design detail as it drops down over the fireplace to supply a screen surface for a built-in projector.

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    An open-riser staircase climbs past a glass wall and an exterior set of mahogany sunshades. "The house is consistent inside and outside," one judge said.

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    Poured concrete forms a subtle, sculptural display space for the clients' ceramics collection.

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    Integrally colored stucco, mahogany, and titanium zinc lend the home's exterior a sense of quiet elegance.

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    At night, the glassed-in dining room pavilion glows, letting passers-by view the central staircase in the background.

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    The concrete spine slices through the house, forming a wall with shelving nooks in the family room. Built-in furniture adds to the sense of comfort and continuity.

The judges remarked on the restraint of this modern, 8,800-square-foot house on an infill corner lot in Palo Alto, Calif. “It's very sensitive for the neighborhood and area,” commented one. Architects Steven Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai of Steven Ehrlich Architects worked hard to create a feeling of consistency with the streetscape. “A lot of it was in taking much of the square footage into the basement,” says Yanai. “We tried to keep the aboveground portion in scale with the neighborhood.”

The two designed a pinwheel-shaped plan that creates four courtyards around the perimeter of the building. A poured-in-place concrete wall defines the home's entry and extends through the interiors to form a north-south circulation spine. “The concrete was a big organizing move, but at the same time, we didn't want this singular massive move to overwhelm the rest of the project,” adds Yanai. So he and Ehrlich lavished attention on details such as an open-riser stair and mahogany sunshades. They also met the owners' mandate to hide the house's high-tech features. In the family room, a drywall soffit conceals the home theater speakers, and drops over the fireplace to provide a projection surface. “There are some spectacular details in this house,” said one judge. “There's a nice simplicity to it.”

Project Credits
Entrant/Architect:
Steven Ehrlich Architects, Culver City, Calif.
Builder: Ryan Associates, San Francisco
Landscape architect: CMG Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
Interior designer: JMW Gallery, Boston
Living space: 8,800 square feet
Site: .4 acre
Construction cost: Withheld
Photographer: Sharon Risedorph

Product Resources
Bathroom plumbing fittings: Dornbracht; Bathroom cabinets: Plant Architectural; Dishwasher: Miele; Entry doors/windows: Zeluck; Exterior siding/sheathing: Rheinzink; Fireplace: Majestic; Hardware: FSB; Kitchen plumbing fixtures: Franke; Lighting fixtures: Ingo Maurer; Paints: Sikkens; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero.