Walk through the front door of the Los Altos Hills home designed by Malika Junaid of M.Designs Architects and your eyes are immediately drawn to the view: a nature preserve of oak trees sloping down the hill toward Silicon Valley.
Everyone who buys a ticket to the self-guided AIA Silicon Valley Home Tour on May 4 can experience that breathtaking view, as well as visit three other homes in Palo Alto and Los Altos. Architects will be on hand to discuss the projects and answer questions.
Altough Junaid had designed other homes in Los Altos Hills and really loved the area, she and her husband happened on their location almost serendipitously: Junaid liked to run in the hills, and she and her husband, engineer Junaid Qurashi, spotted a "for sale by owner" sign on undeveloped property.
"It was overgrown, a poison oak forest, with 10 to 20 feet of shrubs," Junaid said.
After their offer was accepted, it took two-and-a-half years to design and build the nearly 10,000-square-foot home.
This wasn't the family's first rodeo. Junaid had designed two earlier family homes, one in Sunnyvale when the couple was first married, a second in Los Altos when they had two small children and lived on a busy street with little privacy.
This time, she could achieve both privacy — because none of their neighbors on the 2.7-acre property have sightlines to the house — and an awesome view from practically every room.
Before starting her design, Junaid consulted with her husband and two daughters; each got a say in key aspects of the house.
The first must-have was the indoor pool: Both girls had been on swim teams, and everyone liked to swim year-round.
Next, they wanted this house to be much more open, "not to the public, but as a first impression," Junaid said. "When you look out, the eye doesn't stop inside. It goes out."
That meant using as much glass as possible and blending with the environment.
The third — and key — piece was designing a house to reflect how the family lives.
"We are very casual. Friends hang out in the kitchen. The girls work in the family room," she said.
In addition to the sofa and big-screen TV, that family room contains two workstations for the parents (looking out at the trees) and two desktop computers along the wall for the daughters.
"When we are 24/7 working, we are together. We are visible and able to communicate," Junaid said.
In the center of the main floor is a circular space, with a glass floor and railings surrounding a round dining-room table. You can see the indoor pool below, as well as the view beyond.
To the left is the open kitchen, with a 19-foot island topped with Krion by Porcelanosa, a tough man-made material that can stand up to what Junaid calls "bomb blasts" of turmeric or inadvertent Sharpie marks.
"There are six or seven kids here every weekend. We never say 'don't touch,'" she added.
An eating area at one end includes stool seating where the family takes most meals. The island includes a two-burner induction cooktop as well as three Fisher-Paykel gas burners and a griddle. There's also pop-up storage for spices and a pot-filler spigot.
Gray cabinets sport a machine-pressed, high-gloss finish, also by Porcelanosa. Special features include an entire cabinet devoted to tea, a must for the Pakistan-born couple. Along that wall are two ovens, a steamer and a built-in coffee maker.
The blue glass backsplash can be lowered to reveal an appliance garage, hiding everything from the juicer to a knife rack. Behind the garage is access to what Junaid calls "the messy kitchen," a secondary kitchen with an additional dishwasher, a Miele induction cooktop and plenty of storage space. A door leads outside to a small deck and a chicken coop, containing chickens raised from chicks.
Upstairs, across a glass bridge, are the master-bedroom suite, including a double-decker closet and bathroom with a long white quartz trough sink. The girls share a room overlooking a roof deck topped with artificial turf. A secret stairway leads to an attic space devoted to art and reading.
Downstairs, a circular stairway leads to the indoor pool, as well as a seating area, exercise area, media room and a two-room unit with outside access that could be used for guests, a nanny or caretakers. A one-person elevator floats up the center of the circular stairway.
Although there is glass everywhere — walls, railings, flooring — the house qualified for green certification because of its use of recycled water, rainwater harvesting and orientation. "The orientation could not be better — facing north," Junaid said. "It avoids heat gain during summer."
They did install air conditioning upstairs but after a year they have not needed to turn it on, she added.
Asked if they needed to make any compromises, Junaid noted that they still haven't had time to install the climbing wall behind the garage or figure out where to put the zipline.
"It's pending because we want to do it as a family," she said.
Other homes on the tour include:
— A Los Altos home with crisp, minimalist touches, but with strong Tudor roots (6,063 square feet, completed 2017, Noel Cross+Architects, San Jose)
— A Palo Alto home built next door to house the couple's art collection, as well as expand living space (2,945 square feet, completed 2018, Buttrick Projects Architecture + Design, Oakland)
— A modern home in Palo Alto that balances privacy and daylight (5,500 square feet, completed 2017, Verner Architects, Palo Alto and Oakland).
Freelance writer Carol Blitzer can be emailed at [email protected].
What: AIA Silicon Valley Home Tours
When: Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Four homes in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills
Cost: $79 general admission; AIA members $65 (purchase tickets here)