When Meera Agrawal and her husband, Gautam, looked into tearing down the quirky, circular-shaped Los Altos Hills home they'd lived in since 2013, they discovered that the town would only allow them to build a 1,300-square-foot replacement.
Given that their round house with the fabulous views was around 5,200 square feet — built in the 1960s when the lot was part of unincorporated Santa Clara County and not subject to the rules of the town — they quickly shifted gears and decided to do a major renovation, retaining much of its round structural slab and some walls.
"We had to be strategic about the interior versus exterior space," Agrawal said. "The footprint is close to the original."
The new house takes full advantage of the property's 180-degree view of Silicon Valley from the public spaces — the exact opposite of the old floor plan. The back of the house, with bedrooms and bathrooms, looks out onto the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. And the kitchen is plunk in the center, where an inner courtyard used to be.
Architect Steven Stept embraced the idea of a circular house, knowing that it would present definite challenges.
"All the lines of this house come off a center point," he said, noting that none of the walls in the bedrooms are 90 degrees, "but it doesn't feel awkward." The lines of the floor, lights — even outdoor decking — all work with the radial circular concept, he said. Narrow strips were used for the exterior siding, to accommodate the curve, he added.
A lot of learning happened on the job for both architect and contractor.
How do you create things like door and window jambs for a circular structure, Stept said.
"We may have an idea for design, but we needed to figure out the execution. ... The contractor totally embraced the concept. He built a huge protractor so he could figure out how to do radial lines. ... He knew to 1/8 of an inch," Stept explained.
Today, the family of four enjoys views from a great room, with no walls separating the dining area and round kitchen. There's access to an outside deck from nearly every room in the house.
"We love modern architecture, but we were concerned about it looking too cold," said Agrawal, who works for a commercial architecture firm in Mountain View. She was instrumental in choosing finishes, from the soothing blue fabric of the great-room sofa to the walnut-faced fireplace surround that hides the big-screen TV.
The unusual kitchen shape posed an intriguing problem: How do you fit square appliances into rounded cabinets? They did manage to accommodate a Wolf cooktop, two Faber hoods (that look like stainless steel tubes), Wolf double ovens, a dishwasher and two Sub-Zero refrigerators with freezer drawers.
Even the island is rounded, shaped like the letter C.
"I love to bake," Agrawal said. She hopes to teach classes, so she had outlets built into the outside of the island, as well as a prep sink.
A curved peninsula at the side has room for four leather, counter-height chairs.
And there's more room to cook in the outside barbecue area.
Throughout the house, from kitchen to bathrooms, similar cabinet and countertop finishes were used. The white quartz counter in the kitchen shows more veining, while in the bathrooms, it's solid. Faucet finishes are a matte black. Cabinets are walnut; even the trim around the mirrors sports a narrow walnut trim.
The primary bedroom is located where the original living room once was, and the couple can watch the sun set outside the window. The accompanying primary bathroom boasts a steam shower, an Aquatica free-standing tub, trough sink and a wall of Porcelanosa tile that resembles aged metal.
Today the house has four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms on the main level, as well as an office, recreation space for the kids, a bedroom, a bath and the garage downstairs.
An odd space near the bedrooms left room for a more-than-adequate laundry room, adorned with Fireclay tiles.
Throughout the home the floors are made of poured concrete, with radiant heat.
Outside, a grassy area was created where the children could play, enhanced by drought-tolerant plants and drip irrigation.
The exterior of the house is sided with Japanese-style charred wood — shou sugi ban — that will eventually turn a black-silver over time, Agrawal added.
A powder-coated, black wrought-iron railing edges the wrap-around deck, with a drinks shelf near the public spaces.
Adding a couple of bee hives became a hobby during the pandemic, Agrawal said, as well as choosing a variety of fruit trees — fig, avocado, lemon, lime — with more to come.
Now that they've settled into their new home, would the Agrawals have done anything different?
"Maybe make my closet bigger," Agrawal said. "We were super involved, so we made sure we got what we wanted."
"The transformation went way beyond anyone's expectations," Stept added.