Architects often claim Mother Nature as their muse.
In the case of this newly listed and completed 10,210 square-foot contemporary estate overlooking the oak-dotted hills of California’s Portola Valley, the scenic location was all the inspiration architect Robert Swatt needed to envision his next project.
His muse and medium – approximately 6.91 acres with 360-degree hillside perspectives in one of Silicon Valley’s most treasured nature sanctuaries – would be celebrated in a gated masterpiece estate with a separate ADU that would take four years to build.
“At the top of the hillside, with the long view facing south, the land has the perfect exposure to develop a design that celebrates indoor-outdoor living,” recalls the veteran architect, whose Emeryville-based firm, Swatt | Miers, has specialized in modernist-inspired architecture for nearly 50 years.”
Swatt | Miers’ expertise in melding the indoor-outdoor experience with the modernist aesthetic shines through in the home’s horizontal volumes, contrasting juxtaposition of wood, stucco, and stone, and the dynamic interplay between the interiors and the landscape.
The latter reveals itself at key moments in the architecture, perhaps most dramatically in the grand double-height living and dining room space where a disappearing glass curtain wall opens to a broad terrace. The adjacent great room, with its open kitchen and family room, provides yet another connection with the natural surroundings as another set of pocketing glass doors slide open to reveal an infinity pool with wooded hillsides in the distance.
“When designing the house, it was clear to us that the ‘great room’ needed to have a grand scale… a scale appropriate for entertaining and large social gatherings,” says Swatt.
Indeed, as you gaze out to the undulating tapestry of terrain from the terrace or the breezy grass-covered hilltops of Windy Hill from the expansive rooftop deck, you feel as if you are on top of the world. That’s exactly the effect Swatt hoped to achieve: “I would hope that the future owners would have that same feeling of being on top of the world, as well as being connected to the surrounding natural world.”
For the interiors, Tsun-Yen Wahab was brought in to fine-tune the details and infuse warmth into the modernist spaces. The goal was to create a living and entertaining space that would feel exciting and modern, yet at the same time warm, inviting, and timeless. “The craftsmanship is impeccable,” says listing agent Billy McNair of Coldwell Banker Realty in Menlo Park. “Only the finest materials, custom finishes, and fixtures were used.” For example, Juno limestone was used in both the interior flooring and the exterior terraces. “By utilizing the same material both indoors and out, the home seamlessly blends these two spaces into one,” he points out.
In the kitchen, Neolith counters, custom French cabinetry by Chabert Duval, and top-quality appliances from Gaggenau and Pitt integrated burners, ground the entire space while double islands cast the perfect balance of form and function. Meticulous attention to detail carries throughout the home’s entire three levels – from the four upstairs bedroom suites including the resort-worthy primary suite with wraparound deck to the lower level rec room, bar, theater, and guest suite.
A veteran of Silicon Valley real estate who is currently ranked No. 12 nationally, McNair says it is extremely rare for brand new custom homes to come to market in Portola Valley because the build cycles in the town are quite lengthy. As a result, almost all of the new construction projects in town are homeowners building for themselves and not resale homes. “The estate is one of only a very few new construction homes to come to market in the past five years,” he says. “It’s an estate that the new owner will know cannot be replicated.”
When you combine everything – the location, the craftsmanship, the views, and the contemporary design, words like “singular” and “work of art” don’t seem like hyperbole. Especially not when it comes to this Swatt | Miers-designed creation perched atop Firethorn Way.