This distinctive residence was designed as a piece of inhabitable art for its owner, an avid collector of colorful and unique works.  Featuring three stepped-back stories linked by a grand mahogany staircase and a double-height glass pavilion overlooking the semi-rural landscape on three sides, this gallery home is a piece of sculpture in its own right.

Studio Name: Swatt Miers Architects
Design Team: Swatt Miers Architects ‐ Robert Swatt (Principal in charge), Miya Muraki (project architect), Ivan Olds, Mike Eggers

Area: Lot size: 3.7 acres

House size:
Main house – 6122 sf
Guesthouse/Garage – 1093 sf
Art Pavilion – 750 sf

Year: Design: 2009, Completion 2014
Location: Portola Valley, California

Consultants: Structural Engineer: Provest Structural Engineering (formerly Yu Strandberg Engineering) – Peter Yu

Civil Engineer:    Lea & Braze Engineering – Jim Toby
Lighting:   Techlinea – Al Zaparolli
Interiors:    Client – Nicole Vidalakis
Landscaping:    Creekside Landscaping – Mark Wheeler
Contractor:     Lencioni Construction – Chad Lencioni
Photography Credits: Russell Abraham
Other Credits:  NIL

Vidalakis House By Swatt Miers Architects - Sheet4
©Russell Abraham

The client 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, maximization of views to San Francisco to the north, and a strong, symbiotic relationship between building and landscape.  However, as an avid collector, her main design to live in a house that was itself a work of art.

Vidalakis House By Swatt Miers Architects - Sheet5
©Russell Abraham

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 garaged 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-foot linear swimming pool, linear wood deck, and rectangular lawn define the western edge of the immediate landscape with precise geometry, while a gently flopping meadow of tufted pink muhly grass creates a quiet and serene landscape adjacent to the entry.

Vidalakis House By Swatt Miers Architects - Sheet6
©Russell Abraham

A stand-alone art studio pavilion is located to the east of the main house, on direct axis with the main entrance.  Placed on the east side of a cast-in-place concrete wall, this pavilion is virtually invisible as it appears to simply be a background for art.

The architectural language is simple, almost elemental.  Horizontal wood planes from 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 a 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 is immersed in its natural setting during the day and glows like a jewel at night.   Build of natural materials, this new modern home is assertive in its formal expression as it simultaneously reaches out to and embraces the natural landscape.


Swatt Miers Architects Studio profile

Our studio offers architecture, planning, interior design, and facility programming services to individual, corporate, public service, and institutional clients on a wide spectrum of building types.

Projects range from internationally acclaimed single-family residences to a diverse array of public service buildings, including nationally-recognized animal care facilities which have set the standard for this building type throughout the United States and Canada.

The firm was formed as a merger of two long-established San Francisco Bay Area firms — Swatt Architects and George Miers and Associates — with the goal of creating a practice that consistently creates beautiful, sustainable and user-responsive buildings, while offering our clients the highest level of design, management, and principle-oriented services.

The firm’s dedication to design excellence, combined with the highest level of service to our clients, has contributed to the recognition Swatt | Miers Architects has received. With over 85 local, regional, and national design awards, including the prestigious National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects, we strive to create architecture that, both physically and visually, celebrates the beauty of the natural landscape by blurring the boundary between inside and outside for a timeless quality design.

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