Rather than tear down this Silicon Valley midcentury house to make way for an oversize mansion (standard practice in the area), San Francisco–based firm Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW) opted for a lighter approach to bring the now aptly named Void House into the 21st century.
“We decided that we would try to carve away from what was already there,” said Dan Spiegel, who founded and operates SAW with Megumi Aihara, about the Atherton, California, dwelling.
The house’s roof and attic space featured prominently in the original design but were underutilized, and the architects saw potential there.
“We looked for opportunities, some based on locations of existing skylights, some based on unusual program adjacencies that we could find, and carved away at the attic,” Spiegel said.
New Velux skylights and large operable windows and walls from All Weather flood the interiors with daylight and allow for passive ventilation in the mild local climate. The result is reminiscent of the gently luminous work of California ranch-style architect Cliff May—his celebrated Sunset magazine headquarters is not far away in Menlo Park, and Spiegel grew up nearby in a modified May house—but with a definite twist. Cutting through the clean rectilinear geometries typical of the ranch style, the architects inserted sculptural light wells that snake around the house’s existing structure and reach deep into the interior. In this otherwise horizontal home, these elegant vertical elements create unexpected spatial connections.
“The challenge of trying to make these openings work within whatever the existing structure was led to some really interesting formal solutions that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise,” Spiegel said.
The formal solutions had programmatic effects as well: a window in the primary closet looks into a void that connects to a hallway by the front door, for instance. The new spatial connections and channels of light feel grounded in the past while presenting a brighter future.
Architect and landscape architect: Spiegel Aihara Workshop (SAW)
Location: Atherton, California
Wood flooring and ceiling decking: Madera
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Exterior doors and windows: All Weather
Batt insulation: Owens Corning
Metal roofing: RMS Supply
Kitchen pulls and primary bathroom decorative hardware: Rocky Mountain Hardware
Appliances: Thermador, Viking, Miele, Sam- sung
Plumbing fixtures: Waterworks, Kohler, Blanco, Newport Brass, Toto, Rejuvenation, Americh
Tile: Ann Sacks, Daltile, The Builder Depot, Akdo, Ceramic Tile Design, Cement Tile Shop