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Custom by Western Window Systems

NorCal Sanctuary
Palo Alto, CA, USA

Project Details

Tai Ikegami, Feldman Architecture
Palo Alto, CA, USA

Inspired by the environment, architect Tai Ikegami's design is in service of the landscape.

When it came to designing a nature-embracing modern home in Palo Alto, California, architect Tai Ikegami took his responsibility to protect and venerate the magnificent trees on the lot seriously.

“The house is designed around a series of trees on the site – an oak in the front, another oak on the side, a redwood in the back. These are dramatic trees with a large scale,” says Ikegami, a partner at Feldman Architecture, San Francisco.

“One of their highest priorities was to be in this shelter, protected, but have a sense of connection to the outdoors,” Ikegami says. “The design was about, ‘How can the architecture start to dissolve?’ So that while you’re sheltered, you’re still strongly connected both visually and physically to those outdoor spaces.”

Floor-to-ceiling glazing was the clear solution. About 50 percent of the building is glass, including a retractable wall of glass doors in a great room that measures 40 by 20 feet. Massive glass openings in other parts of the home create seamless transitions from the interior to a series of outdoor courtyards and gardens.

“Each area of the house has its own courtyard. It was about creating these individual vignettes of outdoor experiences that you can participate in while you’re inside,” Ikegami says. “So, having floor-to-ceiling glass units, whether it’s big picture frame windows or large sliding doors, was a huge part of our design.”

The diffused natural light streaming through the windows and doors works well with the material palette of concrete and Alaskan yellow cedar to create a setting that partially inspired the name of the project: Sanctuary House.

Ikegami says they wanted to keep the material scheme as simple as possible to help the home recede into the landscape – and having a great window and door package with narrow sightlines was key. “The ability to work with manufacturers like Western Window Systems so that all the apertures on the ground floor really go from floor to ceiling is important,” he says.

“This is a project where, if you look at the photos and squint your eyes, the Western Window Systems package almost disappears,” Ikegami continues. “And I think that’s the highest compliment. The multi-slides are great because they help not only the visual connection, but also the physical connection to the outdoors.”

Clerestory windows helped illuminate Ikegami’s design concept. “There are these high clerestory windows all over the central space, and just the amount of natural daylight and cross-ventilation we were able to achieve through those openings is a huge part of the success of the design,” he says.

In addition to several floor-to-ceiling multi-slide doors in the main living area, the home also has a Series 600 Window Wall in the master suite. The window wall connects to a Series 980 Pivot Door that opens onto an outdoor space with an old persimmon tree as its centerpiece.

“The master suite is the indoor-outdoor connection with the shallowest vantage point, because the master suite is all the way at the back of the house. The glass opening in the master suite is no more than 15 feet from the real outline, but because of the diversity of outdoor space and the different quality and relationship to it, that space ended up working out nicely,” Ikegami says. “It’s really intimate. We have this persimmon tree that almost kisses the building, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to keep it, but it’s just thriving, and being able to take that in when you’re in the master suite is pretty magical.”