2017 Builder's Choice & Custom Home Design Awards
Production, Semi-Custom, or Spec, Less Than 3,500 Square Feet: Grand
Dubbed the I/O House, this 3,300-square-foot single-family residence attempts to mitigate the frenetic activity that surrounds its suburban infill lot in Palo Alto, Calif. Built as a spec house, designers at San Francisco–based LNAI | Architecture chose to provide distinct moments for reflection and repose while using screening devices and carefully controlled sightlines to shield the project’s interior and exterior spaces from nearby houses and a large adjacent school.
Two lushly vegetated spaces, at the entry and adjacent to the central foyer, weave greenery throughout the interior while connecting to the existing landscape. The open plan lends an expansive feeling to the residence while specific details and smaller contemplative areas give it a deliberately episodic quality. The primary public spaces—kitchen, dining, and family room—span the rear of the house and open to the backyard with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Vertical wood screens are deployed at key locations, opening the stair to the relatively small living room, and marking the extension of the family room into the rear yard. A guest suite on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor provide sleeping accommodations, and the upper level includes a small garden deck that continues the indoor/outdoor theme of the ground level.
A simple palette of natural materials uses vertical grain cedar and rift-sawn white oak to amplify the connections between the house and its landscaping. Extensive glazing provides abundant natural light with a passive solar strategy that screens the south and west exposures with screens, trellises, and broad overhangs. The landscaping is predominantly native and drought-tolerant plantings, plus natural and mineral mulch. — E.K.
“It’s a very elegant project with many thoughtful details and a plan that creates unique and purposeful spaces.” - Juror Sebastian Schmaling
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From the architects. Set amidst the dense and frenetic pace of life in Silicon Valley, I/O house is designed as an intentional moment of pause and interlude—one that distills natural light and greenery from its surroundings and interweaves them deep inside the spaces of the home. Dotted only with a handful of trees, the site is located in a dense context of tightly spaced houses and a large abutting middle school. Issues of noise, lack of privacy and undesirable sightlines were difficult conditions innate to the site. Given this site context and despite its humble origins as a spec residence, the I/O house sought to perform at a higher level and serve not just as house, but as a carefully calibrated osmotic filter—one that precisely edits out the adjacent buildings, noise and public views while capturing selective moments of existing greenery and pulling them deep within the house. As one enters, a hidden view garden with a maple and sculptural boulder brings a moment of surprise; a concealed portal in the kitchen frames an unexpected view of the stair landing and redwood beyond; a clerestory band above the kitchen brings in daylight and creates a linear splash of borrowed green from the neighbor’s podocarpus trees beyond. The main living space completely opens to the rear yard, where a ‘horizon garden’—a garden of linear compositions and textures—was introduced as a focal point to help mediate the towering scale of the soaring redwoods behind. Vertical grain cedar and rift white oak bring warmth and tactility, a floating staircase invites ascension, and diaphanous wood screens filter and dapple light, landscape and views. Designed with overlapping spaces and light, the home is intended to be experienced both at once and episodically. It is an architecture of moments—of interlude, of landscape, of rejuvenation.