A new single story design with high ceilings and strong indoor-outdoor connections

Los Altos Contemporary Ranch II

John and Shauna saw our presentation of a 2 story prairie style house at the Los Altos Design Review Commission (DRC) while waiting for their own project to be heard. Although their own two story design was approved that evening as well, they left the hearing feeling unsettled by the comments and questions posed by the Commissioners about their project’s siting, massing, and floor plan.

A few days later, Shauna acted on these concerns and contacted our firm, asking us to take over for their architect and put forth an entirely new design. After confirming that they had already amicably parted ways with their previous architect and were willing to let us start from scratch, we agreed to come on board.

After briefly exploring multi-level plans (both fully above grade as well as options with basements), we landed on a single story plan that both pushed the house as far forward as it could be, while splaying the floor plan to follow the angle side property lines.

The single story design’s benefits were manifold:

  • Avoiding the expense, uncertainty, and delay of another DRC hearing
  • Avoiding the impactful second story setbacks and daylight plane
  • Higher ceilings than would be possible in a single story design, 13′ in the larger rooms
  • Stronger indoor-outdoor connections for all rooms

John and Shauna pointed us to some past projects we had done in the “contemporary ranch” style , and asked us to warm up and enrich the exterior with more natural materials. The resulting palette of stone, wood, stucco, metal roof, and clad wood windows strikes a fine balance between the clients’ contemporary leanings and their traditional neighborhood of original ranch homes.

While pushing the house forward on their pie-shaped lot maximized their backyard area, it posed an aesthetic challenge for us in minimizing the available frontage for the street elevation, especially given the owners’ request for an oversize two car garage. By pushing the garage out of plane with a tall stone entry feature and treating the side fences as architectural elements with stone banding, we were able to maximize the visual presence of the house despite the narrow frontage.




  • Scope of Work: New 5 BR 4.5 BA single family residence with 3,634.75 living s.f. and a 485.42 s.f. garage totaling 4,120.17 s.f. on a 13,740 s.f. lot
  • Project Year: 2016
  • Project Cost:¬†$1,000,001 – $1,500,000
  • Location: Los Altos, CA


Contact us today to start designing the home of your dreams!