The Tree House, designed by Aidlin Darling Design for a family in Palo Alto, Calif., utilizes spatial relationships with existing coastal live oaks and redwoods to provide privacy, beauty, and a rich outdoor living experience in the context of a dense suburban neighborhood.
The home is made up of a series of horizontal and vertical forms that appear to interlock from the outside, united by a zinc metal skin that frames the existing trees and shields the upper floors from unwanted views, in or out. The main living spaces’ wood walls and concrete floors extend past this skin through a series of sliding glass walls, forming a concrete patio that extends across the back and far side of the home, shaded by the upper level. The mesh of modern forms, living trees, and natural materials creates a strong fusion among the spaces, which flow into each other without distinct demarcation.
While the owners wished for an open main-level plan, enclosed spaces were necessary to accommodate the needs of a child with hearing sensitivities. The home’s office, work-out room, and family room are located on the far side of the main floor, entirely separate from the main living area and shaded by the tree-lined property border.
The indoor/outdoor spatial blend enables passive ventilation, which cools the home without the need for an air conditioning system, and maximizes the penetration of natural light. The high-performance envelope includes spray-foam insulated ceilings and floors, recycled blue jean wall cavity insulation, and rain-screen zinc cladding. A rooftop solar array powers the home’s fixtures, including low-flow plumbing and all-LED or fluorescent lighting.