Location: Hillsborough, CA
Program: Modern custom home built into hillside in upscale Bay Area community
Area: 3915sf + 440sf garage
Images: Bernard Andre, Antoine Trichereau
General Contractor: PB Development
Structural Engineer: Double D Engineering
Civil Engineer: DeBolt Civil Engineering

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Hillside House

This three-level family home is embedded in a secluded, north facing steep hillside with views towards the San Francisco Bay. Its elongated plan follows the site’s contours to minimize excavation, and its broad roof tucks under strict town height limits. While the major views from the house are towards the north, the plan also opens south to a courtyard that passively collects sunlight through shaded glass and provides generous cross ventilation and transparency. 

The architecture feels sculptural, but every element works to enhance the home’s livability and efficiency. A three-story staircase dramatically unites the floors and provides as a powerful sculptural element to anchor the courtyard. Expansive decks on the north extend the interior space towards the panoramic Bay view. An imposing two-story “tower” on the southeast corner of the house contains an office and the master bath, but also frames the entrance while shielding private areas from a neighboring house towards the south. 

The design exceeds California’s Title 24 energy code standards by 26% and achieves 139 points on the Green Point checklist. Broad overhangs and landscaping control shading on the south façade while the house’s narrow cross section and openings on north and south sides of living spaces optimize cross ventilation. A high-efficiency boiler coupled with insulated storage tank provides hot water for both radiant heating and domestic use. The house is pre-plumbed for hot water solar collection panels and features a photo-voltaic system on the roof. The house is topped with a standing seam metal roof that is both durable and recyclable. 

The house is decidedly modern but draws on familiar domestic architectural cues to announce the point of entry and orient visitors. The home office and primary bathroom form a small tower to anchor the building and articulate the front entrance. A circulation spine, punctuated by a central stair, extends west from the entrance providing access to all spaces to the north and a courtyard carved into the hill to the south. The court becomes another outdoor room, flowing from the family room. To the north, a low-slope roof cantilevers generously over expansive outdoor decks that provide views to the San Francisco Bay.