Void House

Atherton, CA has become synonymous with excess. As one of the most extravagant zip codes in all of Silicon Valley – and boasting some of the most relaxed zoning ordinances – it’s common to continually add more. And yet, there was an Atherton before these booms, still spacious, but less exuberant – with lower slung houses patterned around the landscape. We encountered a house at the end of a quite cul-de-sac, settled amongst the oaks, and organized around a courtyard – all sensible arrangements. Yet there was something sort of odd happening here, a sort of top heaviness, that was evidenced by a facade that was seemingly all roof. On the interior, it turns out this was almost all attic – largely inaccessible, and highly inefficient. So we began to carve away – subtracting from the solid mass wherever possible and discovering opportunities to re-inhabit the voids. Double negatives become connections – binding unusual program arrangements – the skylight is a window in the closet, for instance, which becomes a light monitor to the entry, blurring the lines between the most public and private spaces in the house. With this strategy, it turns out this house already had enough – it just required figuring out what to subtract.