Real Estate

East meets West

Traditional, contemporary merge in bigger, but more energy-efficient home

When Bill and Kayo Rust first moved to the Blossom Valley neighborhood of Mountain View five years ago, they bought an older two-bedroom, one-bath California rancher, hoping to expand it to meet their growing family needs. Fast forward to now, and they are thrilled to be living in a new four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath, contemporary-looking, two-story house that's more than three times the size of the old one, yet surprisingly energy efficient.

Bill Rust is a software engineer with Agilent, and Kayo Rust has worked as a financial analyst with Hewlett-Packard. With two young children, they quickly outgrew the old house that was just over 1,000 square feet.

"We heard it was a kit brought here in pieces like the house across the street," Bill says.

The Rusts originally planned to remodel the 1948 home to add a second story and more light, but as their architect, Howard Post of Portola Valley, explains, "That house had an inadequate foundation and the materials were poor."

The decision became clear: Start over. Post drew up several schematics, but it wasn't until after the clients sent him a picture of a place they liked on 17 Mile Drive, that Post felt he could cut loose. He spent all night designing "a more dramatic solution with volumetric interest."

The end result is what he calls, "a happy marriage of traditional Japanese and contemporary American influences," that converge in an open floor plan downstairs and a bridge upstairs.

The pale-yellow stucco exterior of the house hints at what's to come inside. The 588-square-foot attached garage has a distinctive looking door. It's made of aluminum and Colplay glass panels to match the rest of the aluminum windows, all meant to be maintenance-free.

Hardiplank, a manmade material that looks like wood siding, covers part of the gabled entry. The front door is made from stainless steel with a bamboo glass cut out.

Kayo is from Japan, and wanted a foyer that transitioned between the outdoors and indoors. Post says, based "on traditional Japanese house design, the entry had to be at a different level using a different floor material."

The entry floor is tiled, and the walls are painted lavender. The idea is to stop, take off shoes, then walk up two steps, and go barefoot on the red oak floors in the rest of the house.

The radiant heating system works to keep the floors warm, according to contractor Chris Donatelli of San Jose. He started with Stego Wrap, "a plastic sheet to line the earth and go up the foundation, leaving a six-inch space of concrete." For the subfloor, he used a thick plywood, Warmboard, which has grooves set at least seven inches apart to make room for the aluminum tubes that constantly circulate hot water under the hardwood floors.

Donatelli says the entire house "is a tightly sealed envelope." He used spray foam insulation, and installed fans that run all the time as part of a heat-recovery ventilation system.

"We have eight thermostats in the house so we can balance the temperature in each part," Bill says.

Overall, the house looks cool, however, with light grey or white walls, lightly stained wooden cabinets, darker stained Douglas fir doors, some fitted with frosted glass and some not. Then there's the focal point, a 16-foot by 4-foot steel, aluminum and glass-floored bridge that dominates the space above.

In the center of the house, the ceiling extends all the way up to the roofline. The bridge acts as a see-through hall connecting the master-bedroom suite on one wing to the kids' bedrooms and shared bathroom on the other end. The bridge has wire cables on the sides, which are currently covered with acrylic panels to make the structure more childproof.

Two triple-paned skylights bring in lots of light, as do the six square windows that are mounted above the bridge on the walls facing south and north.

Directly beneath the bridge is a line of custom-built maple cabinets that separate the living room from the family room and provide lots of toy storage. The cabinets form a half wall, and in the middle is a large-screen TV that can be lowered, raised and swiveled by remote control.

That common area spills into the rest of the rooms on the first floor: the kitchen, dining room, half-bath, laundry room and guest room suite. The kitchen continues the wood theme, with more cabinetry with special pullouts to accommodate bulky items such as a rice cooker and bread maker. Like the counters, the island is topped with an off-white CaesarStone, but it is curved on one side to make the set-up more conversational.

Upstairs, the kids' bathroom is lined with a taupe-colored Fontainebleau limestone in the shower and tub areas, and then a glass door and wall enclose that part to keep the steam inside. In keeping with Japanese tradition, Kayo had a shower put in next to a deep tub because she says, "Before taking a bath we wash ourselves, then use the same water in the soaking tub."

Kayo says she wanted a house that was full of light, "not so ornamental", and easy to clean. Now that the family has lived in this new home for a couple of years, she is happy to report it is simple to maintain, and "we don't use the lights during the day."

Bill is particularly pleased their monthly PG&E bill came to just $48.


Architect: Howard Bankston Post, Portola Valley, 650-328-6963

Building contractor: Chris Donatelli, Chris Donatelli Builders San Jose, 408-287-4886,

Landscape designer: Jim Aguirre, Aguirre & Associates Landscape, Santa Clara, 408-733-1080

Goal of project:

Build an economical family home

Unanticipated issues:

Noise carries in an open floor plan

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

2,850-sq-ft house on 11,200-sq-ft lot

Time to complete:

One year


$325/sq ft

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