California Dreaming: Portola Valley Residence

Located on the San Francisco Peninsula, Portola Valley is a small town nestled between wooded hills. It sits astride the San Andreas Fault and the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to the 2016 American Community Survey (an initiative conducted by the United States Census), it was the wealthiest town in America that year; its home prices were also found to be some of the highest across the country.

One need only look to the breathtaking landscape to understand why Portola Valley has become such a coveted slice of real estate. And when it came to the renovation of one hillside home in a way that honoured both the topography and the region’s architectural style of “blending in”, San Francisco-based firm Malcolm Davis Architects was up to the challenge.

We’re turning our attention this month to four Northern California residences by award-winning MDA, the eponymous firm of UC Berkeley graduate Malcolm Davis. From the modern dogtrot home of Camp Baird  to last week’s cedar-clad Sea Ranch Residence, we’ve been easing the chill of February with a sun-drenched feast for the eyes. This week, we’re turning our attention to a home in the lush treetops. As with other projects in Malcolm Davis Architects’ impressive portfolio, it reflects the firm’s modern approach to California living and its passion for playing with natural light.

Portola Valley Residence

This residence was designed around an existing oak tree, and MDA worked hard to continue this seamless integration with the landscape, featuring elements that nod to the structure’s woodland surroundings. Burnt cedar siding and stucco bring a natural earthiness in both hue and texture to the exterior. It features Corten steel, a favoured material of the firm; Corten was also used in Camp Baird and the Sea Ranch Residence. The warm, rusty colours and subtle log-like shadow effect make it easy to understand why this material is a no-brainer for integrating a human-made structure into nature. The material also evokes the agricultural buildings of the region.

Significant changes were made to the existing interior spaces. Humungous floor-to-ceiling glass doors connect the dining room to a new wrap-around balcony, creating a truly spectacular spot in which to share a meal while taking in the views of the verdant hillsides. Deck railings are horizontal and discreet, interrupting these panoramic views as little as possible. A contemporary chandelier offers a touch of opulence without upstaging the vista.

In the master bathroom, a skylight animates the space throughout the day as light from above dramatically changes in intensity and angle. Painted beams overhead and a large window with garden views makes for plenty of visual interest while residents relax in the giant freestanding soaker tub.

Also included in the renovation was a new guesthouse, making this residence suitable for entertaining visitors. Connected to the main house via a bridge, it provides a sitting area that offers guests a private space of their own in which to enjoy the scenery. On the second floor is an artist’s studio. Is this not the live/work space that dreams are made of?

“Malcolm’s homes honour light, flow, and airiness,” the homeowners shared via press release. “His design for our home also reflects simplicity and timelessness.”

Join us next week for a look at Noe Valley Residence, a renovation project on a busy San Francisco street.

Photos via v2com
Photographer: Joe Fletcher Photography