Overlook House

Despite an extremely steep, almost undevelopable, densely wooded site, the Overlook House creates a new accessible indoor/outdoor second dwelling that allows an aging family member to remain close by the main residence and independently at home. 

To maintain ease of access, the diminutive 775 sq ft home incorporates the driveway approach and garage into a formalized entry sequence, transitioning fluidly to a cantilevered breezeway at the front door framing spectacular views across Silicon Valley. 

Given the site’s dramatic slope, this entry terrace serves double duty as the only viable outdoor open space for the home. A large oval oculus cut out of this covered zone marks the entry as well as the path of the sun over the course of the day –a kind of ever-changing sundial for a resident with limited activities and mobility. 

From the pre-existing main house above on this property, this second dwelling is easy to miss; its broad roof creates a simple new horizon line seen through the trees without interrupting the valley views.

The plan is simple –on the downhill side a single living space modulated into distinct zones with built-in cabinetry, on the other, en-suite bedrooms connected by a large accessible bath and laundry –perfect for a resident and a caregiver. 

Sustainability Designing a fully accessible new home for a mobility-impaired ageing in-law on a steep and wooded hillside site requires a highly efficient and site sensitive footprint, already both hallmarks of good sustainable design.

With much of the small interior spaces being allocated to accessibility and movement, it becomes a design imperative to capture exterior space as part of the functional portion of the home. A seamless transition between interior and exterior environment is amplified by a single floor slab and overhead plane that unite the residential wing and the opposing garage of the home.

The resulting covered area increases the usable floor area using a minimum of building resources.A prominent roof oculus within this covered “courtyard” space provides for a dynamic interior /exterior space directly adjacent to indoor living space as well as promotes a cooling air flow through the often harsh micro-climate of the site.

Photography by Matthew Millman

Design and architecture by Schwartz & Architecture