Real Estate

Midcentury remodel gives homeowners views from every room

Stanford hills home redesign creates open, flexible space

The couple rented on the Stanford University campus for two years while searching for a home to buy. They had come from Chicago and thought they could find something with a comfortable, east coast feel.

What they ultimately found was a "Like-ler," a one-story, midcentury modern home nestled between a park across the street and a stunning view of the hills near The Dish.

In their quest, they came across a spec house by architect Peter Baltay, who worked with them to locate, then remodel their ideal home.

"It was a horrible mess," the owner said, but the duo "liked the way it sat on the lot," with plenty of light and greenery abounding.

"Peter had a vision right off the bat," the owner said, understanding that "we wanted an indoor-outdoor home, with an open entertaining space."

Today, one enters down wide, but shallow, concrete steps. Looking through a glass panel adjacent to the front door, one can see straight through to the backyard and hills beyond.

What was once a compartmentalized house, unchanged since it was built in 1962, now features a massive great room, with all public spaces facing the Stanford hills. The living room is furnished with parallel sofas opposite the wood-burning fireplace.

The highlight of the kitchen is a huge, uncluttered island, with informal seating at one end. Tucked into the island, which is topped with quartzite by Caesarstone, is a pullout drawer microwave, bookshelves and plenty of storage space.

All the appliances are Thermador, including two ovens, a five-burner gas cooktop with a pop-up downdraft vent and refrigerator cloaked to blend in with the cabinetry.

Throughout the house, cabinets were crafted by a San Diego-based company. The owner said it was more cost-effective to fly the cabinetmakers to Stanford than to hire a local company.

The walls are All Weather glass sliding doors in the living room. In the kitchen, the windows stretch from countertop to ceiling, and the open windows become a pass-through to seating outside.

The only problem was where to install electric outlets when there are no real walls. The solution: mount them in the countertop itself.

Tucked between the kitchen and living room areas is a flexible spot with a built-in bench and two wrought-iron chairs, plus a slate-topped table brought from the owners' previous home.

A roomy dining room, again with major windows and views, serves the family at dinnertime, and is also used for entertaining or doing homework.

Behind the fireplace is a wall that goes almost to the ceiling; on the other side is a large-screen TV and seating area, perfect, the owner said, for sneaking a peek at a football game on Thanksgiving — while not fully deserting guests still dining.

A lot of thought went into maximizing each room's purpose. A powder room, with pedestal sink and toilet, becomes a full bathroom with shower, a second sink and vanity when one opens the pocket door. An office is connected to another bedroom with a pass-through bathroom and a pass-through closet (with doors at each end), making it flexible for use as a guest room. The garage is actually "a crash room for kids," the owner said, noting the sofa, TV, desk, foosball table and workout equipment. The forced-air furnace is hidden behind cabinet doors.

Forced-air was not the owners' ideal — they were used to radiators — but the budget simply did not run to installing radiant floor heating.

The master bedroom takes advantage of the view and includes a large, walk-in closet and bathroom with double sinks set in a Halila honed-limestone counter, glass shower doors and a rain showerhead.

Outdoors, a large concrete patio extends behind the house, with seating and a circular fire pit, all taking advantage of the view. Three tiers of plantings, mostly native grasses that don't require much watering, supply drainage down the hill.

At the front of the house, the owners also paid attention to drainage, putting in McNear permeable concrete pavers with spaces for greenery.

Although the owners decided to part with most of their east coast antique furniture, they did manage to incorporate a few pieces in their updated midcentury modern home.

Freelance writer Carol Blitzer can be emailed at

Editor's note: For privacy issues, the Weekly has chosen not to publish the homeowners' names.


Design/Build: Peter Baltay, TOPOS Architects, Palo Alto, 650-327-7573,

Cabinets: Imperial Custom Cabinets, Lemon Grove, 619-461-4093,

Goal of project: Open the house to become more indoor-outdoor and less compartmentalized, while focusing on view.

Challenges: Mounting electric outlets where there were no "walls."

Size of home, lot: 1,985-sq-ft, 3 BR, 2 BA expanded to 2,828-sq-ft, 4 BR, 3 BA on .29-acre lot

Year home built: 1962, remodeled extensively in 2013.

Time to complete: 6 months for design, permits; 6 months for construction.

Budget: Between $600,000 and $800,000.

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