When architect Steven Stept first saw the site of Los Altos Hills II with client Simon Yiu in September 2012, it was empty, gently sloping alongside a quiet cul-de-sac. Now, two stacking, intersecting bars perch on the hillside, opening onto an infinity pool nestled between the two elegant forms. Finished and photographed, polished and populated with furniture, Los Altos Hills II is the product of years of hard work and extensive collaboration but remains true to the original nature of the site; the home finds strength in simplicity and calm on the cutting edge.
“What I like most about the project,” says Feldman’s Humbeen Geo, who assisted with the project’s construction drawings, detailing, construction administration, and interiors, “Is that the main design concept translated into and through construction. Nothing was compromised.” As a custom-for-sale home, the home’s programming lacked the idiosyncrasies of a project designed as a client’s ‘forever home,’ but its design received the same level of focus and attention to detail. Conceived as bold composition of simple forms in the office of Axelrod + Stept Architects, prior to Stept joining the Feldman team where he fine-tuned the design and now serves as Managing Partner, it stayed that way, thanks both to the client’s trust in his architects’ vision and ability to execute and in Steven’s faith, in turn, in the team he assembled.
“Steven gave me the license to both learn and contribute in a meaningful way,” says Humbeen, for whom Los Altos Hills II will always stand out in his mind as his first residential project. Indeed, it is clear that the final home reflects the collective strength of all who worked on the project, from Huettl Landscape Architecture’s thoughtful design for the site, where the dark mulch relates to the dark wood of the house, to Tali Ariely’s lighting design, whose strong concept of a linear lighting system supplemented by down lights mimics the crisp lines of the house. So, too, the wide sliding glass panels that scale back to blur indoor and outdoor living spaces, turning the home’s main living areas into pavilions open to the breeze, represent Murray Windows and Doors’ integral contribution to the project. “Carol, your doors look great – I can’t see them!” Steven joked to the Murray representative after seeing the home completely open to the site and its pool at its center. He adds, “The indoor/outdoor living element is stronger in this house than in any other house I’ve designed.”
One of the collaborations that proved the most rewarding, Steven says, was with Hector Rivera, who crafted the home’s steel staircase. The staircase now casts a striking shadow on the white kitchen counter, and it has become one of the strongest elements of the home.
The project’s finishing touch was the furniture provided by Flexform San Francisco for an intimate open house gathering held at the home in mid-July. Flexform is a luxury furniture brand, handmade in Italy, for whom details are everything, and their furniture adds a softness to the sleek, modern design. “It makes it casual,” says Flexform’s Gregory Herman, “and therefore useable. It invites people to dive in, fire up a movie, enjoy the breeze, the view, the pool.” When, in a happy coincidence, it came to light that the large sofa Steven and Simon had selected for the living room was designed by the same Italian designer, Antonio Chitterio, who designed the Arclinea line featured in the home’s nearby kitchen, it felt as if the final piece of the puzzle had fallen into place. “Before, it was just a building,” says Gregory. “Now, it’s a home.” Feldman’s Aaron Lim, who also worked extensively on the project, added, “The building really came alive that evening; with all of the exterior doors open, especially the corner doors, guests were able to walk in and out the house easily. It felt very open, and well-proportion – not extravagant or ostentatious.” When guests walked through the large entry pivot door into the living room at the open house, immediately accessing views of patio, pool, and site beyond, Steven received his long sought-after response: a jaw drop.
I recently had the chance to walk the home’s dark wood floors, climb its steel staircases, and watch the sun pour into light wells, stairwells, and, well, everywhere from basement to crowning master suite. The sun beat down on the infinity pool, casting reflections of the ripples in the water onto the shaded underside stucco overhang two floors up, and it filtered through the slots in the steel stairs to become slits of light splayed across a concrete wall. All of the home’s doors were open, and all of its closets were empty, just waiting for coats to be hung.
From the Iron Chef competition to the rejuvenating Third Thursdays, every part of my experience at Feldman Architecture this summer has been a thrilling challenge from start to finish, especially the occasional morning maneuvers through all of the office dogs.
Diving into a proposal for a project during my second week was an effective way to be put under the spotlight and face the real world. An unmatched opportunity to witness the progression of a collaborative design process, the many projects I helped out with were a true test to my ability to overcome challenges.
I would like to thank everyone, and especially Humbeen, for helping me learn through my stumbles and falls, and for making my experience so fun. I accrued a multitude of skills and a plethora of knowledge during the two and a half months of working at Feldman Architecture. For instance, I can now confidently say that I know how to disable the office alarm without frantically pressing all of the buttons. It has been a real pleasure to be a part of such a vibrant work environment.
Thank you for being such a wonderful team, I hope that I can cross paths with all of you in the near future. It has been a pleasure to get to know all of you !
When you hear the name Oxgut, images of beautifully crafted, resourceful designs might not immediately come to mind. However, that is exactly what the Oakland-based startup is known for, as we learned during their visit to the Feldman office in July 2016.
The unusual name, a nod to the first fire hose made in Ancient Greece, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the materials from which LauraLe Wunsch produces her enterprising creations. Wunsch salvages “retired” California fire hoses deemed unsafe and re-purposes them into products as practical as they are aesthetically compelling: floor mats, industrial loungers, hammocks, tote bags, and most recently a firewood carrier.
LauraLe realized the problematic reality of sending the non-biodegradable material to landfills at the end of their careers and believed in their potential to live up to high end design. The hoses, not only striking in hue and texture, each have distinctive markings and history the designer knew deserved to be honored. As if the Oxgut offerings weren’t an enticing enough concept, a portion of the Kickstarter-funded brand’s profits go directly to The Children’s Burn Foundation. Suffice to say; Wunsch left the FA team feeling both inspired, and eager to find their own ways to re-purpose unconventional materials into beautiful, useful creations.
Shop the products and find out more about the one-of-a-kind designs at https://www.oxgut.com/
Just around the corner from our office, on a quiet stretch of Montgomery Street lined by brick facades and a procession of leafy trees, William Stout Architectural Books has offered a quiet refuge and resources to the neighborhood for twenty years. With over 20,000 American and international titles in the fields of architecture, art, urban planning, graphic and industrial design, furniture design, interior design, and landscape architecture, the discreet bookstore has become both a neighborhood staple and tourist destination.
Bill Stout, the store’s eponymous founder, began as an architect and still “lives, eats, breaths design and architecture,” according to Carolina, an expert in design publications and a store employee. Over thirty years ago, Bill began bringing architectural books back from Europe for friends, and eventually turned the hobby into the business that it is today, which includes a publishing company for talented architects with little exposure. Bill’s passion for design has attracted equally passionate employees; Carolina comes from a family of designers and printers, and she studied Graphic Design in college.
Her colleague, Ian, used to practice design fulltime, and before becoming an employee at William Stout, he was a customer. Indeed, many of the store’s customers are professionals in the industry who come to William Stout in search of inspiration or insight. Ian describes them as “people who use the books for function rather than leisure,” and says that the comment he hears the most often is “I wish I had more time!” Not only do customers wish for more time to pour over the many volumes on the crowded shelves lining the stores walls and creating aisles in the center of the crowded space, but they are also often required to make a return visit to tap the considerable knowledge of the store’s employees like Ian and Carolina. William Stout has become a networking tool, or “directory,” the pair says, and they are often asked to recommend professionals as resources or consultants for their customers. As it grew to become a cultural hub, the store’s clientele expanded to include tourists, as well. “It’s a destination,” Carolina explains. “You come here just like you would go to the MOMA.”
While the clientele has changed over the decades, the passion behind the business and the bones of the operation have remained true to their original forms. Even the rise in digital publishing has done little to curb the store’s success. Carolina believes that they experience of thumbing through a book, its “tactility” and “intimacy,” is too different from browsing a publication online for the two media to be in competition.
With a treasure trove of monographs on talented architects, complete with stunning images and well-honed text, it is challenging for a publication to stand out on the shelf and in the mind of the reader. According to the pros at William Stout, though, there are a few qualities that make a publication compelling. “Type is essential,” says Ian, whose own favorite book in the collection, Manuals 1: Design and Identity Guidelines, explores examples of graphic design from companies and institutions who capitalized on the science behind what makes a certain font, layout, or color scheme more compelling. Monographs published in an architect’s prime, or even as promotional material for newer firms, can be just as successful as books published at the end of an architect’s career. “Both have great energy” explains Carolina, “It’s the enthusiasm and confidence of the younger architects versus the experience and wisdom of the more accomplished ones.” She finds herself drawn to collections that exhibit a “formidable character,” identifying Louis Kahn as engaging individual who maintained the same level as artistry in words as he did in his designs; if the architect’s a compelling person, his or her book will be, too.
At Feldman Architecture, we feel lucky to have such a rich resource just around the corner, available for insight or inspiration on any day of the week. It is clear that Bill Stout’s passion for the intersection of design and books both casts a legacy that will remain meaningful for decades to come and extends to his employees. As I step back across the shop’s threshold and into the sunshine of Montgomery Street, I catch Carolina pulling a definitive guide to graphic design off of the shelf for a customer at the front of the store. Flipping through its pages, slowing to show its glossy images to the woman at her side, she smiles. “This is kind of like the Bible,” she says.
This past weekend, Steven and I visited a few signature Feldman projects not far from the massive forest fires that hit Big Sur recently. As helicopters circled overhead, we became increasingly alarmed by the staggering severity of the crisis, which affected nearby areas but not any Feldman projects themselves. The affected area has grown to approximately 15,000 acres and while there are 1,500 firefighters working to mitigate the situation, containment currently stands at only at 5%. So far, no Feldman projects are at risk, but there’s been a call for voluntary evacuation of homes in the area. Two of our clients are full-time residents and are hanging in there, though their bags are packed for a quick exit should things get worse. It’s a sobering reminder about the power of nature, and the need to respect it. To stay up to date on developments, head over to http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents .
View from House Ocho driveway
View from House Ocho driveway
View from the Hacienda
View South from Hacienda lawn
View from Hacienda
View from Chemisal
View from Penon Peak Trail
View From Long Ridge Trail
Evan Shively takes the day at a jog. The handful of employees at Aborica, his mill and showroom in the rolling hills of Marshall, California, try to keep pace, running from the compound’s wood mill to its showroom and through the stacks of wood piled by the side of its uneven dirt driveway, hardhats clutched to their heads. They gesticulate wildly to each other – higher, lower, stop, and start – inaudible over the noise of the machines creating slabs from reclaimed wood Evan has gathered from throughout the area. Their heavy machinery careens around corners, kicking up dust in its wake and coating the yellow wildflowers along the barn in a fine powder. If there’s a sense of urgency to this June afternoon, it’s because Evan’s wood salvage business is high demand.
Today, Evan and his team are sawing second growth Redwood for a new supermarket south of the City. Seven Redwood trees were taken from the site of the supermarket and, after months of drawings and revisions from the client, Evan is sawing them into slabs according to the provided specs before sending them on to the fabricator, enabling them to inhabit their old home in a new way.
One employee, Chris, carefully positions the wooden slabs on the machine used to saw and trim their edges. Chris is new to the Pettibone machine required to move the slabs, and Evan pushes and shoves a piece of the redwood to position it correctly, wiggling the wood and his hips to place it in precisely the right spot. At times, the wood, too, appears to be dancing, animated by the machine that props it up on one edge and then the other. Maneuvering the long slabs and setting them down at just the right angle requires a certain dexterity from the heavy machinery and its driver, and Evan eventually hops up in the driver seat, a measuring tape marked with a Hello-Kitty sticker hanging out of his pocket, to help Chris steer the slabs into place. “It’s a careful choreography,” he calls over his shoulder. “It’s like ballet.”
The business of sawing wood, while often branded as based more on strength than on grace, is a careful craft requiring extreme precision and a willingness to linger in the creative process. And, like any artist, Evan draws inspiration from his materials in their original form and encourages his clients to do the same. “Being in the presence of the wood is going to give him clarity,” he says of one client lacking design direction. “He’ll think of the boundless ways he could accomplish his goal, rather than what would be necessary to get him there.”
For Evan, each piece of wood has a personality and a past, and deserves a project that will celebrate both. As we make our way through Aborica’s barn, removed from the din of the machines down the hill, and a cat scurries from one shaded corner to the next, Evan stops at specific slabs, pointing them out in their stacks as individuals. “This is one of the most outrageously beautiful things in the shop. It’s like a natural Noguchi,” he says in front of one Walnut slab. At a lovely Elm one that has yet to be put to good use, he expresses his genuine disappointment that it hasn’t found a good home.
Evan runs back to his office, a shaded and cool room, where the halves of a pitted slice of trunk lie flat on the floor in the form of two arched seats and sketches are strewn across the slab propped up as a desk. He picks up the phone and dials a friend.
“Happy birthday!” He says when the friend answers. “What you do want me to cook? And, remember we’re not beholden to finger food.”
In his former career, Evan was a successful chef and still throws dinner parties and cooks for friends in the professionally-equipped kitchen of his home. For his friend’s birthday dinner, he decides to consult the fish market of his choice and ends up settling on 3 lbs of shrimp and 5 lbs of squid, and, after asking if there is “anything else impossibly delicious” at the market that day, decides to “bust a little ceviche.” The ingredients at hand are driving the meal.
Like working with wood, cooking is predicated on natural materials, Evan explains, and the sweet spot sits at the intersection of resources and design. Both of the crafts he has turned into professions begin with and hinge on the materials that inspire them. “You don’t decide to make an arugula salad and then go about making the arugula,” he says. “You have the arugula and think, ‘This would make a really delicious salad.’” Evan, like us at Feldman, believes that materiality is never an afterthought.