A contemporary design centered around natural light and indoor/outdoor flow

Menlo Park Modern

Longtime friends Ariel and Silvia decided that they were willing to attempt to defy the old adage, and pooled their financial resources in a speculative house development project. Having purchased an infill piece of bare land in an established Menlo Park neighborhood, they came to us with some initial floor plans, but few other predispositions about the design, aside from a general preference for a French Country exterior.

We loved Silvia’s idea of breaking up the garage into two separate one-car structures, and also their images of Spanish style courtyard houses. We quickly developed a space plan featuring a parking court, west-facing light court, and covered rear patio. With the exception of a guest bedroom suite, public spaces flow into each other on the ground floor, and receive light from many different exterior walls.

After a brief flirtation with an overly glassy French Country design, our clients took our suggestion to re-envision the house in a fully contemporary style, a move our office enthusiastically embraced.

The maximum floor area was restricted by Menlo Park as percentage of the lot size, but we attempted to make the house live larger than its square footage through careful use of indoor/outdoors spaces that do not count as “floor area” and also increase the transparency of the house.

A west facing courtyard streams light into the family room, stairwell, and a guest bedroom while also serving as an inhabitable space.

A dramatic rear roof extension off the family room extends the living space outdoors and provides shade for the mostly west-facing backyard. A series of sliding doors allow for continuous flow between the great room and relatively deep and flat backyard.

Even the upstairs hallway features a large window, with a wood screen wall obscuring view of the one story neighbor below.

To be respectful of the streetscape, we pulled the second story building mass away from the adjacent single story neighbor, and towards the neighboring elementary school open space. Two front-facing bedrooms anchor the street elevation, while the 2nd floor master suite takes up the entire rear half of the 2nd floor, and faces the deep backyard and adjacent open space of the school. The master suite features an amply-sized bedroom with vaulted ceilings, luxurious master bath with multiple windows and skylights, reading nook, and a generous but private covered balcony. A laundry room completes the second floor.

At the ground level, a formal living room and guest suite occupy the front of the house, while a family/dining/kitchen combo comprise a great room that all overlook the rear yard.

People who toured the house prior to its sale remarked on the quality of natural light and indoor/outdoor flow of the house, both of which were primary drivers of the design. We have received many new clients by way of people who saw this house in person.


  • Project Year: 2013
  • Project Cost: $750,001 – $1,000,000
  • Location: Menlo Park, CA


Photography by Mark Pinkerton, VI360 Photography


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