Nicole Vidalakis had contemplated building her dream house for years before finding the perfect site in Portola Valley, a semi-rural enclave on the peninsula south of San Francisco. The 3.8-acre site is a beautiful, gently sloping parcel, with mature oak, cedar and pine trees sufficiently dense to provide privacy from neighboring houses yet open enough to afford beautiful views of the surrounding hills as well as of distant San Francisco. Her design requirements included open planning for interior spaces, zoning of functions to provide a clear separation between public and private spaces, maximizing views to San Francisco to the north, and a strong, symbiotic relationship between building and landscape. However, as an avid collector, Nicole’s main desire was to live in a house that was itself a work of art.
The resulting design is based on an L-shaped plan, anchored by a three-story, linear cast-in-place concrete wall that projects into the landscape to frame outdoor spaces on both sides of the house. Main public functions are housed on the lower level, while the master suite and a home office are located on the floors above. The short leg includes a one-story home office and a detached garage and guesthouse. The plan organization creates two major outdoor areas: a private landscaped courtyard on the south side, and a more public viewing terrace for entertaining on the north. Perpendicular to the house and topography, a 75’ long swimming pool, linear wood deck, and rectangular lawn define the western edge of the immediate landscape with a precise geometry, while a gently sloping meadow of native grasses creates a quiet and serene landscape adjacent to the entry.
The architectural language is simple, almost elemental. Horizontal wood planes form the floors and roofs, in counterpoint to the vertical cast-in-place concrete core, and are in-filled with full-height glazing to maximize views. A rhythmic three-story window wall defines the circulation spine and stair, and forms one edge of the private landscaped courtyard on the south side of the house. The main living space, two stories high and almost entirely transparent with views in three directions, is a glass pavilion that drinks in its natural setting during the day and glows like a jewel at night. Built of natural materials, this new modern home is assertive in its formal expression as it simultaneously reaches out to, and embraces, the natural landscape.