Hidden amid the luxuriant vegetation of Los Altos Hills, California is the Round House recently renovated by Feldman Architecture, so named for its round shape. The unique geometric structure is one of only a handful of round homes built in California in the 1960s. The clients fell in love with this unusual round house at first sight, and initially planned only a few modest renovations before moving in, but they soon realised that the home was inefficient in many ways and decided they needed to completely rethink its design. One example of the type of problem faced by Feldman Architecture is the gutters that blocked the spectacular view through the windows. According to the studio’s founder Jonathan Feldman:“Our team set out to craft a respectful enrichment of the home’s original form, focusing in on a site-sensitive response to the steep, challenging plot”.
Perched atop a rock, Round House offers 180° views from the wooden walkway running around its perimeter. There was originally a small open-air courtyard in the middle of the floor plan, but Feldman Architecture transformed it into a kitchen and gastronomic workshop: a very appropriate choice for an aspiring baker and a family of fine dining enthusiasts. A big round skylight now lets daylight into the kitchen to create a sort of unexpected meridian, lighting up various different sections of the custom-designed furnishings at different times of day.
Visitors entering the home through the main door are guided by the broad spaces and converging lines toward the middle of the house. The kitchen counter, which is the true centre of the home, faces onto an open-space living room with big windows over the surrounding landscape. The living room is where the walkway around the house begins, creating a number of opportunities for transition between inside and outside. At the intersection of the spaces between the living room and the kitchen, a big patio off the side of the walkway around the perimeter opens up toward the middle of the floor plan. From here, and from the living room, California’s South Bay is visible in all its splendour. A corridor surrounds this kitchen island with a concentric circle, leading guests to the four double bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and walk-in closet. This ensures that the day and night areas are separate but adjacent, in a layout like a pie graph. The floor-to-ceiling doors are curved so they can be retracted into the walls, and the walkway around the perimeter provides separate access to the outdoors from each of the bedrooms.
Feldman Architecture lists all the clear, refined design choices adopted to achieve the elegant appearance of the home’s interior, giving Round House an unusual contemporary look even while maintaining the focus on the landscape outside: “A Japanese style of charred wood siding, called Shou Sugi Ban, seamless concrete floors, crisp curved white walls, and minimalist interiors let the colourful and dramatic views speak first”.
Jonathan Feldman goes on to describe how the challenge of the home’s circular shape forced the project team to come up with creative solutions to every aspect of its design, from plant engineering to furniture, as most conventional architectural solutions are intended for application to rectangular shapes with right angles, not curves. But despite the challenges involved, now that the project has been completed, and the images speak for themselves, we can compliment Jonathan Feldman on the success of this renovation project offering an honest, creative, contemporary response to the limitations imposed by Round House’s unusual architecture.
Location: Los Altos Hills, CA
Size: 5,103 sqft
Project: Feldman Architecture https://feldmanarchitecture.com
General Contractor: Baywest Builders
Civil Engineer: Lea + Braze Engineering Inc
Landscape Design: Variegated Green
Structural Engineer: BKG Structural Engineers
Geotechnical Consultant: Romig Engineers Inc
Arborist: Urban Tree Management
Lighting Designer: Tucci Lighting
Photography: Adam Rouse