It can be tricky when houses go up on a hillside--not just from a building perspective but from what some might call a public-relations angle. What happens to those below, whose bluff views will suddenly be altered? That's what the Irvine Community Development Co. and Pardee Homes had to contend with when they got involved with Fiore, a neighborhood of 88 single-family detached homes in the Summit area of Irvine's Turtle Ridge.

"These houses really had to look good from a distance; that was key," says Roland Fournier, a senior principal with William Hezmalhalch Architects. "We wanted these houses to have the feel of a Tuscan hillside."

Fournier achieved that Tuscan feel through a disciplined use of massing and materials on the 3,074-square-foot Plan 2 model. The deeply recessed windows conjure up the look of 16th-century villas; brick and iron enrichments add to that time-worn appeal. But it's the 13-by-15-foot, third-story family retreat that really adds the finishing touch.

Fournier calls these little surprises "pop-ups," and the Plan 2 example does that exactly. But what might sound like an afterthought (and look like one, too) looks completely at home on this gutsy house. "It's an awesome room to go into," says Fournier, "and when you're in it looking out, the views are just incredible." Better yet, it looks pretty terrific from the existing neighborhood down below.

Jeffrey L. Smith Photography

Category: Single-family production home, more than 3,000 square feet; Entrant/Builder: Pardee Homes, San Diego; Architect: William Hezmalhalch Architects, Santa Ana, Calif.; Developer: Irvine Community Development Co., Newport Beach, Calif.; Land Planner: TRG Land, Newport Beach; Landscape Architect: Land Concern, Santa Ana; Interior Designer: Color Design Art, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.