While planning to build a hillside California home for themselves and their two boys, a Hillsborough couple admits to providing architect Randy Grange with a crazy wish list. “I spent a lot of time looking at photos of other houses for inspiration,” says the wife. “We wanted it to be clean and modern, but with wood details to make it feel warm. We also wanted it to accommodate having people over yet have an intimacy to it. It also had to fit our lives now with the kids and their friends, as well as when it’s just us and then accommodate a larger family when the kids come back with their own children.” And near the top of that list: a design that would take advantage of a hillside location offering vistas of the bay and surrounding canyons. “We wanted that indoor-outdoor feeling on all the levels of the house,” adds the husband.
Grange began sketching, aiming to capture key elements of the couple’s list and incorporate windows to frame the view and natural materials—all while considering the family’s lifestyle and the challenging hillside site. “We almost felt guilty about giving him this impossible task, but he was not deterred at all,” the husband says. “The house just got better and better.”
Above all, the home was designed to take advantage of the outdoors. In the kitchen, for example, accordion windows completely open the space to the landscape and fresh air. Grange and interior designer Leslie Lamarre—partners in business and life—ensured that both architecture and interiors honored the location’s exquisite beauty. “The colors and natural materials take inspiration from the bay and the surrounding landscape,” Lamarre notes.
The interiors are stylish, but with playful touches. “We wanted the home to have a modern design but also some personality,” Lamarre says. “In the guest bedroom, for instance, a bold yellow and white wall treatment provides pattern and a fun pop of color.” Other examples of unique details include a pair of plush purple armchairs that flank a bird-leg table in the master bedroom, an oversize swiveling circular loveseat in the living room, and an array of leather pulls in the kitchen. “It’s nice to have some furnishings and elements that are also pieces of art,” Lamarre says. “They work so well with the modern aesthetic of the house.”
The couple especially wanted to create a sense of fun for the boys. “We call the feeling ‘kidly,’” the wife says. A big waterslide was built into the hillside, for example, so kids—okay, adults, too—can swoosh down to the pool in style. “That’s a neat feature,” says landscape architect Michael Callan, who helped design it. “I was thinking back to when I was a kid in order to figure out how to make it the most fun.”
Another example of “kidly” is in their son’s room. The scenery from the younger boy’s bedroom doesn’t match up to his big brother’s view, so the homeowners wanted to make it up to him somehow. “I had the idea that we could build a secret passageway with a trap door,” the husband says. “I almost said it as a joke.” But the design team ran with the notion. They equipped the child’s closet with a trap door that leads to a slide that transports him to his secret room in the lower level of the house. “He can pop out through a subtly camouflaged door in the lower-level family room and surprise everybody,” Lamarre says. “Initially, we were humored by the effort to create this space, but these are the things that make the house special.”
Also in the younger boy’s room, a hammock that’s anchored between a towering tree trunk and the wall swings over the bed. “We found a company that sources cedar trees and works with a craftsperson who kiln-dries and hollows them out. General contractor Augie Peccei’s construction team installed a steel post in the room, wrapping it with the split tree trunk and concealing the seams.” the designer says. “Their son enjoys being up there in the hammock reading a book and it’s been a big hit with his friends.”
He’s not the only one enjoying the house. Once avid travelers, the couple says they now vacation a bit less because they don’t want to leave home. And these days they are as obsessed with the view inside as the view to the landscape. The husband notes: “Now we go onto the deck, and we end up staring back into the house.”