Clean, tranquil, modern architecture, and playful, energetic, small children— at first blush, the two seem mutually exclusive. The owners of the ARA House, however, dreamed of one day owning a peaceful, sophisticated, modern home with ample outdoor space that would satisfy their deep interest in design while still being a practical, family-friendly home for their kids. After searching for two years for the right property, they finally discovered the perfect lot in Atherton, California. Surrounded by mature landscaping and heritage oak trees, the setting provides total privacy from the neighboring houses.
The design, by Swatt Miers Architects, called for a simple, bright, and elegant home that has a strong connection to the landscape for comfortable indoor-outdoor living. By setting the building at an angle—roughly 30 degrees—off of the orthogonal grid of the lot, the architects created vanishing vistas from each major interior area, increasing the sense of space surrounding the home. The resulting trapezoidal exterior spaces have been transformed into landscaped outdoor rooms for family living, with extensive private gardens, terraces, and a swimming pool.
After arriving on the property via a long private driveway, visitors approach the house along a footpath that leads beneath a low, cantilevered roof overhang. A three-story stair core flanks the entrance and visually anchors the largely horizontal architectural composition, while its board-formed concrete provides a counterpoint to the quiet white stucco of the rest of the house. On the interior, glass railings and white oak floors provide visual warmth, and a linear skylight along the edge of the stair core washes natural light across the rich texture of the concrete, providing visual interest to the entry. The end result is a beautiful house that extends into the landscape and provides spaces for relaxation and entertaining, as well as for play.
AIA East Bay is an architectural community spanning the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano. Our many programs include education for architects and outreach to the community on vital topics, such as sustainable design, earthquake safety, and architect-related issues that focus on how the Bay Area community benefits from well-informed design and development. www.aiaeb.org
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