Warm and contemporary Menlo Park retreat

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The Wheeler Residence was built for a couple in their 30s with three small children in Menlo Park, California. Designed by William Duff Architects this new house makes use of an existing foundation to create dramatic living spaces that flow into the landscape. The original home and an adjacent guest cottage totaled 2,500 square feet but they felt it was not large enough for the five of them. Wheeler planned a similar but larger floor plan of 5,000 square feet with more indoor-outdoor areas, similar to the ones he grew up with in Colorado. It was also a way for the family to have a modernist space with the times, visually warm and eco-friendly with solar radiant heating, cross ventilation and recycled materials.  Wheeler’s son built a Lego model of what they wanted and most of it ended up in the final plan.

The basic plan shared a lot of the features with the former house and guest house that were on the lot, but with a central family room that has foldaway corner doors which open to the back garden to connect the two wings. The two houses were demolished, with their foundations saved and additional materials salvaged to incorporate into the new building or used as landscape material. Old chimney bricks were used for the paving pattern around a new pool and guest pavilion. The new foundation and the stained concrete floors use fly-ash, which is a recycled product. Recycled denim in the walls and low-VOC paints were also used. Flat roofs at varying heights, wide overhangs, clerestory windows and interplay of wood and stucco cladding mimic the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The modular configuration of the rooms and proportions of doors and windows are borrowed from Le Corbusier. All doors and windows are made of mahogany for a warm look and because it is a long-lasting material.

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The material palette includes Cor-Ten steel, glossy prefinished Fin-Play panels and integrally colored stucco was used because they can be maintenance free.

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The interior is a series of open spaces on each side of the central spine with varied ceiling heights giving the illusion of discrete rooms, and storage cabinets double as short walls to divide dining areas from living spaces, the kitchen and other public rooms.

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The higher ceilings in the center also draw warm air upwards, dissipating it through operable clerestory windows.

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The flat roofs hide the solar panels; one set is photovoltaic for electricity, another for heating water and the third to heat the 14-by-28-foot pool.