Printer Friendly

Palo Alto Idea House: come inside our latest project for decorating tips and eco-friendly innovations. (Special Section).

Is there a house like this one in your neighborhood? Maybe so. Combining aspects of Prairie- and Craftsman-style architecture, our idea house was originally constructed in 1904. Versions of it--with the same blocky two-story-plus-attic shape, shingle or clapboard siding, hipped roof, and front porch--were built all across the country. Ours was carefully jacked up and trucked from its original site to its current address in University Park, a neighborhood of new and historic residences developed by SummerHill Homes near downtown Palo Alto, California. (To look at a photo of the move, see "From the Editor," page 8.)

The surprises are inside and in the backyard. Interior designer Pamela Pennington explains: "We kept the traditional shell of the house, demolished some interior walls, and created a more open floor plan. The idea was to reevaluate the Arts and Crafts bungalow, adapting it for the way people in the West really live today"

Landscape designers Chris Jacobson and Michael Bliss of Gardenart took a similar tack with the rear garden by turning it into a multifunctional outdoor room. Mark Retherford of the Dahlin Group and Mark Hulbert of C. David Robinson Architects helped develop the new floor plan.

Entry hall

The front door opens to a foyer and stair hall, with the dining room on the left and the living room on the right. Straight ahead is the kitchen-family room. A major goal was to make the interior light and bright, incorporating eco-friendly materials like bamboo flooring in the process. The bamboo is lightweight and very durable because of its hardness. Pennington specified contrasting bamboo insets--like area rugs--by the front and back doors.


Stair patterns

Pennington chose a vertical-stripe bamboo pattern for the stair risers. Combined with the stair rails--which are made of alternating light and dark woods to reinforce the stripe motif--the effect is particularly dramatic and puts a contemporary spin on the Craftsman practice of treating a stairway as a piece of furniture.

Living room

We opened up a passage between the living and family rooms (previously, the living room had been a dead-end space accessible only from the front hall). Adding the passage made the fireplace opening off-center, which gives it a sculptural quality. A simple mantel made of built-up molding runs the width of the fireplace wall, creating a crisp, contemporary look. The wall and trim colors continue into the adjacent family room, visually connecting the spaces.

Family room

The kitchen flows smoothly into the family room, where the furniture is elegant and casual. The four swivel chairs offer versatility. Each has its own drink table, so when all are turned toward the plasma television, the space becomes a mini-theater. A long, glass-fronted storage bench runs under the windows on one side of the room. At the rear, beside windows overlooking the garden, is a reading nook with a poppy-print chaise.

Dining room

Richly glazed red walls are a colorful accent to the home's light, airy look. A built-in buffet cabinet adapts a key Craftsman feature for today. The host and hostess dining chairs are upholstered in a poppy print--updating a favorite early-20th-century flower theme--and echo the chaise in the family room.


Pennington took a yin/yang position in the kitchen, breaking up the large center island with two types of stone--white marble (ideal for making candy or pastry) and honed charcoal limestone--set in a sensuous, curving pattern. The effect is echoed in the limestone countertops and white tile backsplash. A window banquette draws the eye with a dramatic tabletop made of recycled glass embedded in a cement matrix.


Divide and conquer

A focal point is the Craftsman-inspired room divider that functions as a bookcase on one side and bench on the other. The sturdy bench, positioned by the back door, is a great place for resting packages on the way to or from the garage and driveway.

Master suite

The second-floor master suite faces neighboring homes, so the challenge was to keep the room soft and romantic while offering light and privacy. Our silk combination curtains were the solution: Their sheer tops let in diffused light, while solid shantung bottoms offer screening. The neutral curtains blend easily with the soft gray carpet and wall color.


The basement was added to the home's original plan, and in it we were able to slip a large media room, guest room, wine cellar, and laundry. All boast natural light except the wine room, thanks to small light wells at the side of the house and a large light well at the rear. To give the small light wells visual appeal, we filled them with variously sized bamboo stalks, creating the impression of an exotic landscape.


Light wells and more

The largest of the light wells is actually a small sunken patio that's accessible from the media room through French doors. The key feature is a soothing wall fountain--water spills from a large, horizontally mounted bamboo stalk into a ceramic basin. The fountain is framed by tall bamboo planted in containers resting on a bed of recycled glass balls. A carved bench at one side faces bamboo canes artfully composed on the other. The effect is spare and contemplative, like a miniature Zen garden.


Ultimate laundry room

Located off the basement hall, this room contains several noteworthy features, including a resilient floor made of rubber recycled from tires, and such new products as a built-in ironing cabinet, a forced-air drying cabinet, and a laundry sink with specially designed water jets for gentle washing.


The attic's four 6 1/2- by 7-foot dormers--one on each side--were the inspiration for four distinct project rooms. Pennington created a reading alcove, an artist's loft, a photographer's cataloging center, and a gift-wrapping space to illustrate some of the functional possibilities.


A classically shaped tub is combined with contemporary details in the guest bathroom on the second floor. The narrow, rectangular space at one end of the hall is efficiently divided into three zones: You enter beside a counter with double vanities, proceed past the tub, and reach a toilet area at the far end. Each zone borrows light from a bank of windows.


Slide rule

A heavy-duty translucent plastic sliding door--mounted on an overhead track--separates the sink area from the bath/toilet zone when the latter is in use. It also hides an 8-foot-tall medicine cabinet tucked in between the studs.

Counter color

The bathroom takes a playful turn with round vessel sinks set into a vividly patterned countertop made of cement and candy-colored recycled glass--like the tabletop in the breakfast nook. Pivoting mirrors installed over a white tile back-splash add to the functionality.


Landscape designer Chris Jacobson made the small backyard as efficient as possible while drawing inspiration from the Craftsman era. He divided the main space into distinctive zones: a brick-paved outdoor dining area under a shade structure made of steel, wood, and canvas; a small lawn with a water feature; a potting area and painted arbor that's made of rot-proof, weather-resistant decking lumber; and raised beds for berries at the rear.


Compass fountain

Jacobson used a sculptural bronze compass fountain designed by :L:M:N:O: Arts of Aptos, California (the firm also designed and fabricated the shade structure). The fountain is both decorative and functional: Its reflective surfaces catch the light while the sound of splashing water adds a soothing note. Directional notations around the rim reinvent the tradition of the compass rose, in which flowers were often planted to form the shape of a compass.

The Palo Alto Idea House is open Fridays 9 to 8, Saturdays 9 to 6, and Sundays 11 to 6; through September 29. Tickets are $10. Call (800) 786-7373 or visit for details on parking and shuttles, and other information.

Palo Alto Idea House National Sponsors

1. Alpha Granite & Marble. Natural stone lends a timeless quality to counters, floors, and the fireplace in the Idea House. Selections range from white Carrara marble tile in the master bath to a honed gray striated limestone slab in the kitchen, and walls of gold-toned honed marble tiles in the powder room. With more than 500 stone varieties in its inventory, Alpha Granite & Marble offers an unprecedented range of choice.

2. CertainTeed. The challenge was to combine longevity, durability, and a wood-shake appearance compatible with the historic character of the house. CertainTeed's Landmark[TM] TL asphalt shingles in "Weathered Wood" did it. It's a super-hevayweight tri-laminate fiberglass asphalt shingle--redesigned for 2002-with a flared dragons-tooth cut and new color blends. It carries a UL Class A fire rating.

3. Fieldcrest. The Royal Velvet line of cotton towels and sheets complements the Idea House's color palette. The towels are available in 40 solid colors, with coordinating jacquards, bath mats, and rugs, along with matching sheets, duvets, and accessories.

4. GMC. The 2002 Envoy--the all-new GMC midsize SUV--combines comfort, performance, and style. It's the perfect vehicle for Western living and is equally at home carpooling or taking the family to the high country for a weekend of skiing. Motor Trend magazine has named it the "2002 Sport/Utility of the Year."

5. Karastan. The carpeting and area rugs are from Karastan's newest lines. "Berwick Tweed," a handsome and durable 100 percent New Zealand wool that resembles men's suiting, was perfect for the basement. "Agave," from the Sisal Wool Classics Collection, graces the master bedroom and home office. Runners from the Attitudes line--a casual collection of classic contemporary styles in a neutral palette--warm up the living room and hallways.

6. Kelly-Moore Paint. The Idea House boasts a relatively open plan, which means that the paint palette must be carefully controlled to avoid jarring contrasts between rooms. The broad spectrum of Kelly-Moore paints made it possible to select both a muted palette of soft greens and grays and vivid accents like the rich red of the dining room and the deep green blue of the attic. There are more than 160 Kelly-Moore retail stores in the Western states,

7. KitchenAid. The latest stainless steel appliances from KitchenAid give the kitchen sleekness and efficiency. The Pro Line cooktop has six sealed-gas burners (four are 15,000 BTU); the dishwasher incorporates the KitchenAid Whisper Quiet sound insulation system; the Ultima Cook high-speed oven cooks in a fraction of the time of a conventional oven. KitchenAid Wine Cellar beverage chillers are in the wine room and the home office.

8. Lennox Industries. The Idea House features the Dave Lennox Signature CompleteHeat Combination Heating System. The highly efficient, Energy Star-rated system delivers unlimited hot water and home heating and significantly reduces energy bills compared to conventional furnaces and water heaters. The house also features the Dave Lennox Signature Air Conditioner with Silent-Comfort technology.

9. Monrovia. Garden plants at the Idea House are from Monrovia, including several from Monrovia's Sunset Best of the West Collection. Selected by horticulturists and Sunset editors, the collection includes a wide variety of plants that are easy to maintain, tough, drought-tolerant, and flourish in the West's climates.

10. Orchard Supply Hardware. The Idea House garage features a state-of-the-art workshop containing a selection of the latest power and hand tools, garden tools, and storage items provided by OSH. These are the types of tools used to make woodworking projects, from a porch swing to Adirondack chairs.

11. Pella Corporation. The Architect Series Classic high-energy-efficiency windows and patio doors--with wood interiors and aluminum-clad exteriors--are from Pella and complement the Idea House's Craftsman-era architecture. The windows feature custom accents to match several original windows that were preserved.

12. The Sentricon System. Wood structures like the Idea House need protection from subterranean termites. The Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System provides it with an environmentally responsible termite-baiting treatment. Using just a few grams to eliminate a termite colony, the bait is placed only when and where termites are present in the stations, and removed after the colony is eliminated. The Sentricon System recently received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the EPA.

13. Timberlake Cabinet Company. The Idea House cabinetry was provided by Timberlake. A division of American Woodmark Corporation, Timberlake offers more than 110 cabinet styles and a full array of coordinating moldings and accessories. The Idea House kitchen features Tucson solid maple beadboard cabinets in a spice finish, with clear glass inserts, roll-out shelves, and tray dividers.

14. Trex Decking and Railing. The Idea House's rear deck, potting center, and low front fence are built of Trex Decking and Railing. Made primarily from recycled plastic grocery bags and reclaimed pallet wrap and waste wood, the weather-resistant decking lumber is free of splinters and never needs protective sealants or stains. It resists moisture, sunlight, and insects, will not rot or crack, and contains no toxic chemicals or preservatives. The deck is "Winchester Grey"; the fencing has been painted to match the house.

15. Vieluxe Gas Grills. Built by hand, the 56-inch-long rolling grill parked near the outdoor dining area includes a side table that slides open to reveal dual burners. An integrated smoking system with an independent burner and ported flues distributes smoke evenly throughout the cooking box. The grill provides precise heat control.

16. Whirlpool. The laundry room is outfitted with Whirlpool's latest high-performance, energy-efficient washer and dryer, the Duet fabric care system. The Energy Star--qualified washer uses 68% less water and 67% less electricity than a conventional washing machine. Other debuting appliances include the built-in ImPress ironing station; DryAire drying cabinet, which speeds air drying; the SinkSpa jetted sink for washing delicates; and Personal Valet clothes vitalizing system.

Palo Alto idea house resource guide


Builder & Owner: SummerHill Homes: (650) 857-0122

Development: University Park: (650) 321-8432

Interior Designer: Pamela Pennington Studios: (650) 813-1797; Pamela Pennington, Kina Ingersoll

Landscape Designer: Gardenart:; Chris Jacobson, Michael Bliss

Architects: C. David Robinson Architects: (415) 291-8680; Dahlin Group (Consultant): (925) 837-8286

Nonprofit Partner: The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden (650/329-1356) will receive a portion of the Open House proceeds.

Thanks to the City of Palo Alto for hosting our 2002 Idea House.


Automobile: GMC:

Bed & Bath Linens: Fieldcrest:

Cabinets: Timberlake Cabinet Company,

Carpet & Area Rugs: Karastan: (800) 234-1120

Decking, Painted Arbor/Fencing: Trex Decking and Railing: (800) BUY-TREX

Grill: Vieluxe:

Heating, Air Conditioning: Lennox Industries: (800) 9-LENNOX

Kitchen Appliances, Cookware, Cutlery: KitchenAid,

Landscape Plants: Monrovia:

Laundry Appliances: Whirlpool Corporation:

Paint: Kelly-Moore Paint:

Roofing: CertainTeed Corporation:

Stone Countertops & Surfaces: Alpha Granite & Marble: (800) 510-2574

Termite Elimination System: The Sentricon System:

Tools & Hardware: Orchard Supply Hardware: (888) SHOP-OSH

Windows & Patio Doors: Pella Corporation: (888) 84-PELLA


Contributors, Subcontractors, and Other Services

Artwork: HANG: (650) 752-0250

Audio/Video Systems, Security, & Specialty Wiring: Golden Pacific Systems: (888) 371-9177

Automobile Dealer: Menlo Park Buick Pontiac GMC: (650) 326-4100

Bamboo Trees & Stalks: Bamboo Giant Nursery:

Bath Hardware: Restoration Hardware:

Brick: H.C. Muddox: (800) 776-1244

Carpet & Area Rugs Dealer/Installer: Interiors & Textiles: (650) 493-1700

Ceiling Fans: Casablanca Fan Company: (888) 227-2178

Ceramic Plates & Platters: Marsha Klein Studio: (707) 935-1207

Cleaners: One Source: (408) 745-7575

Closet Systems: California Closets: (800) 2-SIMPLIFY

Clothing: Coldwater Creek:

Concrete & Recycled Glass Countertops: Counter Production: (510) 843-6916

Driveway Paver Installation: Maxicrete: (707) 422-7994

Driveway Pavers: Basalite Concrete Products: (800) 266-3670

Drywall: M & B Drywall, (408) 270-6899

Electrical Contractor: Electrical Service Company: (408) 265-2850

Exterior Railings, Historic Window Restoration: Bay Area Metro Builder: (415) 970-1072

Fabric Panel Material: Carnegie/Xorel Surfaces:

Finish Grading, Drains: Pacheco Tractor Service: (408) 262-4203

Fireplace: Lennox Hearth Products:

Fireplace Installation, Insulation: Coast Building Products: (925) 671-8111

Flooring-Bamboo: Tico Bamboo: (408) 436-7940,

Flooring-Linoleum: Marmoleum by Forbo Linoleum: (866) MARMOLEUM

Flooring-Rubber: Eco Surfaces by Gerbert Ltd.,

Flooring & Tile Installation: Peninsula Floors: (800) 326-1297

Foosball Table: Sequoia Billiard Supply: (650) 571-8113

Framing, Exterior Trim: Edwards Construction Group: (209) 832-0485

Furniture, Accessories: Design Within Reach:

Ethan Allen: (800) 228-9229

IKEA Emeryville:

Norwalk--The Furniture Idea:

Palo Alto Furniture: (650) 325-2914

Garden Wall: Basalite Concrete Products: (800) 350-5866

Glaze: McCloskey Special Effects: (800) 345-4530

Handcrafted Landscape Structures & Metalwork: :L:M:N:O: Arts:

Home Office Furniture: Techline Studio: (650) 321-4430

HVAC Installation: R&R/Marcucci: (650) 347-2151

Idea House Parking: Town & Country Village: (650) 325-3266

Interior Door Hardware: Schlage Lock Company:

Interior Doors: TruStile Doors:

Interior Plants & Pots: McLellan Botanicals (orchids); Fisher Nursery (other houseplants); Norcal Pottery (ceramic pots); Nurserymen's Exchange (metal pots); available at Orchard Supply Hardware: (888) SHOP-OSH

Irrigation System: The Toro Company:

Landscape/Hardscape/Garden Structures Installation: Gomez Landscaping: (650) 368-1278

Lighting Manufacturers: Access Lighting; Illuminating Experiences; Minka-Lavery; Progress Lighting; Tech Lighting

Lighting Supplier: Thomas Lighting: (650) 508-0306

Mailbox: Custom Home Accessories: (800) 265-0041

Mantel: California Mantel: (916) 925-5775

Millwork, Trim, Doors: Cary Construction: (925) 455-0620

Natural Fiber Pillows: Flourish International: (925) 778-8555,

Organizational Systems & Accessories: The Container Store:

Outdoor Low Voltage Lighting: Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting: (805) 527-0987

Paint Contractor: RMC Painting and Restoration: (650) 342-3993

Plumbing Installation: L Jaguar Plumbing:

Recycled Glass Balls: Glass Garden:

Recycled Wood Bench: Joinery Structures: (510) 451-6345

Redwood Fencing: Sierra Lumber & Fence: (408) 286-7071

Roofing/Siding Installation: Old Country Roofing: (707) 864-5557

Sheet Metal, Gutters: Atlas Heating & Ventilating: (650) 873-7000

Shower Door: Western Shower Door: (510) 438-0340

Solid Surface Countertops: Caesarstone: (408) 971-8434

Specialty Cabinets: Heartwood Cabinets

Stair Railings: Simmons Stairways:

Stone Slab Fabrication & Installation: Take It For Granite: (408) 971-8434

Structural Steel: RPM Steel Fabrication: (650) 327-4432

Tile: Alpha Granite & Marble: (800) 510-2574

Country Floors: (415) 241-0500


Walker Zanger: (877) 611-0199

Trees: Pacific Nurseries: (650) 755-2330

Wall Glazes: Alfie Holmes Painting & Faux Finishing: (650) 348-3780

Window Coverings: Custom Creations: (650) 591-7131

Wine: Fetzer Vineyards,

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR of all the rooms and spaces in the Idea House, on A detailed room-by-room resource guide is available within the virtual tour.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Bertelsen, Ann; Gregory, Daniel
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Previous Article:Gardens of the sun: Mediterranean-style gardening in the West.
Next Article:Candlestick project: metallic paint gives new life to damaged and mismatched pairs. (Home: Guide).

Related Articles
The new look of linoleum. (Material Revival).

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |