The name Tierwelthaus, or ‘Wildlife House’ evolved from the unique relationship between the home and the land. A heavily used deer trail passes into the canyon to the north and a screech owl who had taken up quarters within the structure during construction now frequents the property. A pair of bobcats regularly patrol the yard, while birds and small creatures alike have built homes in the encompassing terrain.

The home faces due west, and onto a quiet road that lifts away from the house.  Recognizing that its primary visual access comes from above, the redesign included an uplift of the home’s exterior and front façade. The east face of the home sits on a down sloping hill and upon entering the house, one has immediate visual access to the sweeping views beyond.  Expansive decks on both levels extend the trajectory outwards placing one directly into nature.

On the exterior, a horizontal composite louvre system was applied to provide privacy and emphasize the linearity of the façade. A minimalist garden pavilion cropping out from the front veneer creates a layered entryway into the home. To give further clarity to the house’s structure and design, agave plants, cabbage trees, and succulents, inspired by New Zealand landscape were cultivated throughout the site.  The addition of the drought-resistant, contemporary landscape immediately adjacent to the home integrates its modern design with the surrounding setting while also allowing the environment to dissipate into its own native form.

LOCATION Portola Valley, California


Structural Engineer: Sheerline Structural Engineers
Builder: John Rodhouse, Olivewood Inc.
Landscape: Surface Design Inc
Civil Engineer: Lea + Braze Engineering Inc
Geotechnical Consultant: Murray Engineers
Photography: Paul Dyer