Location: Cupertino, California, US
Area: 2,600 square feet
Site size: 5 acres
Architects: Craig Steely
Landscape: Confidence landscaping
Lighting: Craig Steely
Photography: © Darren Bradle
The house floats in the canopy of a dense Oak grove in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains just west of Silicon Valley.
The conceptual idea came clearly and quickly—float a glass box in the leaves of the trees on two trunk-like columns, disrupting as few oaks as possible. The dense tree canopy offers the opportunity to build a completely glass walled house, protected from the direct rays of the sun, yet filled with dappled sunlight. The steepness of the site directs the entry to the living level from above through a grass-covered roof, like an open meadow sitting in the tops of the trees.
A bridge of steel grating connects grade and the rooftop of native grasses. An observation deck sits in the grass field along with a garage/foyer of zinc panels and mirror glass. Sunlight funnels down through the foyer into the living level.
The main living area is cantilevered into the tree canopy while bedrooms, bathrooms, service and storage are located behind a long wall of cabinetry along the hillside. Distinct spaces (the living room, the office, and the kitchen) are delineated spatially in the open plan by sinking them into the concrete floor. These spaces are further delineated by material. In the sunken office, all surfaces—flooring, desk, cabinetry— are milled from a single slab of Chinese pistachio. The sunken living room is filled with 144 sq. ft. of B&B Italia’s “Tufty time” sofa components. In the kitchen/dining room a 22 ft. long counter of white composite quartz continues the kitchen work surface into the dining table. In the ceiling, flush mounted LED strips imply these zones. Strong geometric lines of light, reminiscent of a Dan Flavin sculpture, are clearly visible from the outside looking up through the leaves.
The house sits at the boundary between suburb and wilderness and straddles the two like it sits on the site. Just as they did before construction, Mule deer rest in the shade of the cantilever which is now a continuation of the oak canopy. Gray squirrels run along the branches and wild turkeys roost in the treetops, merely 10 ft. away from the kitchen table. The expanse of glass feels permeable and disappears only to leave nature as it always has been in the grove.
All images courtesy of Craig Steely
Craig Steely is a California and Hawaii based architect. His buildings have been described as true and unique hybrids of these two environments. They embrace the realities of the environment and our connection/separation to it over the subjugation of it, all the while focusing on developing a singular architecture rooted in its context. Active projects include work on the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui, as well as several along the coast of California—from Sea Ranch to San Francisco to Big Sur.
He received his architecture degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He has lectured at the University of Hawaii, the University of California at Berkeley, Cal Poly and at many conferences including the Monterey Design Conference. His work has been awarded recognition by the American Institute of Architects and published widely in books and periodicals. In 2009 he was selected as an “Emerging Talent” by the AIA California Council. His office was chosen the top firm in the 2013 Residential Architect Magazine leadership awards.
Craig Steely Architecture
8 Beaver Street
San Francisco, California 94114 USA