Palo Alto Residence

Palo Alto Residence

Studio VARA
Project Year
Private Houses
Matthew Millman
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
Guscioalto Soft Chair with Swivel Base, Gipsy Dining Table, Gipsy Side Table, Acanto Chair, Agave Chair Flexform
Vieques Side TableKettal
Tab Floor Lamp, Lighting - Smithfield S SuspensionFlos
ManufacturersTania Johnson
Slumber PoufsCasalis BVBA
Master Bedroom Table Lamps, Mercer Table Lamp Marset

Product Spec Sheet
Guscioalto Soft Chair with Swivel Base, Gipsy Dining Table, Gipsy Side Table, Acanto Chair, Agave Chair
Vieques Side Table
Tab Floor Lamp, Lighting - Smithfield S Suspension
Slumber Poufs
Master Bedroom Table Lamps, Mercer Table Lamp
by Marset

Palo Alto Residence

Studio VARA as Architects

A young Palo Alto couple with three children came to us with the desire to build a more modern interpretation of the traditional home that occupied this prominent corner lot in Old Palo Alto. As a couple that loves entertaining, they envisioned a multi-purpose home with ample room for their family, as well as generous social spaces that seamlessly flow from the inside out with as little circulation space as possible. Though challenged by the constraints of their small lot, a collaborative and thoughtful approach allowed a final solution to emerge that seamlessly integrated landscape, architecture, and interiors into a cohesive whole. With our guidance, the couple’s search for comfort, efficiency, spaciousness, and light, gradually transformed their traditional vision into this contemporary work of total design.

The lot sits on a quaint Palo Alto street corner with high visibility, but with zoning constraints, setbacks, and adjacent neighbors that severely limit the space in which to maneuver. The challenge of fitting the client’s sizable program into this tight envelope while maximizing the remaining outdoor space is achieved through a careful approach to site design and an analytical series of massing studies. The resulting form is positioned at the outermost corner to preserve the rear yard and the massing is optimized to achieve the maximum interior volume allowable across the two upper floors and basement.

The ground floor is carved away in the center to wrap around a small central courtyard which brings daylight and outdoor space into close proximity with all the interior spaces, blurring the line between inside and outside to maximize the livable space of the home. Three walls of sliding and pocketing glass doors open up to a meticulously designed series of decks and patios that further blur this line, and take advantage of the temperate climate to transform the back yard into an extension of the interior entertainment spaces.

This expansive first floor sits above an equally large basement, and is elevated above the ground to allow the sun to angle in through a series of light wells and apertures in the decks to the spaces below. The basement’s ten-foot tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows allow the daylight to pour in and expand the sense of space to make this lower level feel light, spacious and open.

In contrast to the expansive and open ground floor, the second floor is a compact rectilinear volume that is fit out with a neat series of bedrooms and bathrooms wrapped around a light-flooded central stairwell. Packed in like a Rubik’s Cube yet meticulously proportioned to ensure livability, these private spaces turn both inward and open out to a series of roof decks at the ends. Light pours in from a skylight and large window in the stairwell and cascades down a central stone wall alongside the steel and wood stair that connects this private level to the family rooms below.

From the street, the house appears to hover lightly above the ground, the effect of slightly elevating the first floor above grade and recessing the base below decks and wing walls around the perimeter. Overall, the exterior reads as a composition of stacked volumes, an affect that is emphasized by giving each level a unique primary material: board-formed concrete for the basement, cedar and larch siding for the main level, and exquisite dark panelized zinc for the top floor.

These various materials are stitched into a cohesive whole through meticulous attention to detail both inside and out, with every corner and transition thoroughly considered to reinforce a consistent formal and material narrative. A final layer of ornament is layered in through a series of metal and wood sunshades, screens, and railings that add a fine-grained scale and tactile decoration to the composition, while also serving to mediate views and light from inside to outside. This elevated level of detail blends the architecture with the finer textures of the interiors and the landscape, weaving it into a total composition of light, shadow, color, and texture that captures the eye and envelops the body in a sphere of comfort and serenity.


Material Used :

Core and Shell Materials

Windows: Fleetwood

Wood Siding: Western Red Cedar – Jackel Enterprises

Wood Deck and Soffits – Larch – Jackel Enterprises

Zinc Siding: VM Zinc

Metal Panels: Dri-Design

Custom Decorative Metal: Aluminum Facia. Extruded Metal Window Jambs. Trellis.

Stucco: Custom colorExterior Lighting: Lindsley Lighting


Custom Metalwork Fabricators

Conceptual Metals: Custom aluminum exterior metalwork

Chris French Metals: Custom aluminum exterior guardrail

Adrian Burns Design & Fabrication: Custom interior & exterior metal stair


Interior Material Products

Wood Flooring: Big Oak Hardwood Floor Co

Custom Cabinetry: WNT Cabinets – Kitchen cabinets, Wall paneling, Family room built in media wall.

Custom Cabinetry: Ron Hiatt – Master, Office, Bathrooms, Closets

Recessed Lighting: Intense LED recessed lighting

Motorized Shades: Lutron Motorized Shades

Plumbing Fixtures Bathrooms: Toto, Hansgrohe, Kohler, Lefroy Brooks

Plumbing Fixtures Kitchen: Dornbracht Faucet, Julien Sink.

Appliances: Sub Zero Fridge/Freezer & Wine fridge, Miele Dishwasher, Wolf Range Oven, Custom Hood.

Stone: Calacata Oro at Kitchen and Master Bath: Pietra Fina Marble

Stone: Three story stair stone wall, Haisa Stone - IRG

Tile:  Waterworks, Walker Zanger,

Door Hardware: Sun Valley Bronze

Decorative Cabinetry Hardware: Sun Valley BronzePaint: Farrow & Ball, Strong White



Patrick Dintino – Andrea Schwartz Gallery - Stairs

James Kennedy – Dolby Chadwick Gallery – Living Room

Lisa Russell – Dolby Chadwick Gallery – Family Room + Office

Adam P Gale – Bronze Scluptures – Living RoomYunhee Min Painting – Suzanne Vielmetter- LA Projects – Music Room


Decorative Lighting

Apparatus Studio Arrow Pendant: Stair Chandelier

Apparatus Studio: Master Bedroom Pendant

Lindsey Adelman Branching Pendants: Kitching and Dining

Boyd Lighting Topanga Sconce: Powder Room

Fuse Lighting Cambridge: Rear Entry Ceiling Fixture

Bocci: Piano Room Pendant

Marset: Master Bedroom Table Lamps

Flos Tab Floor Lamp: Living Room


Interior Furnishings (Living Room)

Rug: Tania Johnson Waterlines

Sofa: Minotti Sectional in Coraggio Mohair Fabric

Decorative Pillows:  Rosemary Hallgarten, Jay Jeffers Store

Lounge Chair: Flex form Guscioalto Soft Chair with Swivel Base

Coffee Table: FlexformPiuma Coffee Table

Side Table:  Studio VARA design, Go Build Studio

TV Console: Studio VARA design, Go Build Studio

Table Lamp:  Fosters + Partners EVA Table Lamp

Floor Lamp: Flos Tab Floor Lamp

Artwork: James Kennedy – Dolby Chadwick Gallery

Sculpture: Adam P Gale – Bronze SculpturePottery: Sara Paloma Pottery


Interior Furnishings (Dining Room)

Lighting: Lindsey Adelman Branching Bubble Pendant

Dining Table: Flexform Gipsy Dining Table

Dining Chairs: Flexform Acanto Chair  

Candle Stick Holders: Jay Jeffers Store

Onyx Bowl: Sloan Miyasato

Kitchen Island Stools: Mater – Mater StoolsKitchen Island Pendants: Lindsey Adelman Small Bubble Pendant


Interior Furnishings (Family Room)

Rug: Paul Smith for The Rug Company – Carnival

Sofa: Restoration Hardware Modena Slop Arm Sofa

Decorative Pillows: Williams Sonoma Home + Jay Jeffers Store

Coffee Table: Mater Accent Oval Lounge Table

Side Table:  Mater Accent Table

Lounge Chair: Flexform Agave Chair

Poufs:Casalis - Slumber Poufs

Bronze Tray: Caste Low Round Tray

TV Console: Custom Artwork: Lisa Russell– Dolby Chadwick Gallery


Interior Furnishings (Master Bedroom)

Lighting:  Apparatus Studio Cloud 19 Chandelier

Bed: Anees Upholstery - Hamilton Bed

Side Tables: Tod Von Mertens Ambrosia Bedside Tables

Table Lamps: Marset Mercer Table Lamp

Wall Paper: Phillip Jeffries Suit Yourself - Pressed Powder

Curtains: Ewing & Ball with Holland & Sherry Andes-Marble Fabric

Bedding: Matouk Dashiell CollectionDecorative Pillows: William Sonoma Home


Interior Furnishings (Guest Bedroom)

Bed: Room and Board Wyatt Bed

Side Tables: West Elm Cube Side Table

Table Lamps:  EVA Table Lamp, Fosters + Partners, Lumina

Bedding: Restoration Modern Ecco Geometric Collection

Decorative Pillows: Williams Sonoma

Decorative Throw: Room & Board Horizon Micro Plaid ThrowArtwork: Unknown


Interior Furnishings (Music Room)

Lighting: Bocci Light 28.16 Series

Art: Yunhee Min Painting – Suzanne Vielmetter- LA Projects

Side Tables: Flexform Gipsy Side TableChair: Flexform Agave Chair


Interior Furnishings (Powder Room)

Light: Boyd Lighting Topanga Sconces

Wall Paper: Innovations Frequency

Custom Mirror: Mike Danielson StudioAccessory: Apparatus Brass Candle Lantern


Interior Furnishings (Office)

Desk Chair: Poltrona Frau Ginger Chair

Table Lamp: Westin Mitchell Tower Lamp

Wall Paper: Schmacher Fabric Telluride Wool Herringbone

Accessories: Jay Jeffers StoreArtwork: Lisa Russell– Dolby Chadwick Gallery


Interior Furnishings (Blue Bedroom)

Lighting: Flos - Smithfield S Suspension

Bedding: West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Ikat Stripe

Decorative Pillows: William Sonoma Home

Decorative Throw: Jay Jeffers Store Axis Alpaca ThrowCurtains: Ewing & Ball with Victoria Hagan Fabric


Outdoor Furnishings

Dining Table: Kettal Park Life

Dining Chairs: Kettal Park Life

Lounge Chairs: Dedon Ahnda Wing Chairs

Lounge Sofa: Dedon MU Sofa

Side Table: Kettal Vieques Side TableFirepit: Concreteworks


Landscape Materials

Cedar Fence: Custom design, Benjamin Moore Arbor Coat finish

Exterior Lighting: BK Lighting, LuxR Lighting

Exterior Paving: Alabama Stone, Vetter Stone

Built in BBQ: Custom. Stone Zimbabwe Black, IRG.

BBQ Appliances: Lynx

Firepit: Concrete WorksPlantings: Furnished upon request

Project Credits
Mater Stools, Accent Oval Lounge Table
Landscape Contractor
Structural Engineer
Civil Engineer
Branching Pendants, Branching Bubble Pendant, Small Bubble Pendant
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