Mariko Reed

The Modern Atrium House in California by Klopf Architecture

This 3 bedroom, Eichler-inspired courtyard house in Belmont, California was designed by San Francisco based Klopf Architecture, as a remodel to a what was originally a dilapidated 1940’s home.

The new home sits on a gentle hillside slope and features a central courtyard or atrium connecting the owners to nature at every turn. Its a simple design that is scalable and modular with a sense of composure, restfulness, and highly energy efficient. The owners, inspired by mid-century modern architecture, hired Klopf Architecture to help them decide- remodel and add to a 1940s modern house or start fresh with an Eichler-inspired 21st-Century, energy efficient, all new home that would work for their family of three.

With the decision made to start over, Klopf and the owners planned a home that follows the gentle slope of the hillside while the overarching post-and-beam roof above provides an unchanging datum line. Every square foot of the house remains close to the ground creating a sense of connection with nature. The resulting increase in ceiling height with each step-down helps create the hierarchy of the public spaces (living room is tallest, then dining, then kitchen, then entry). A rational layout based on four-foot-wide beam bays brings a calm composure to the space while the central stacked stone fireplace chimney shooting up through a skylight contrasts that with some fanfare.
Unassuming planes of stacked stone down below street level belie the roomy, open spaces that are progressively revealed as one flows through this Modern Atrium House. Enter through the front door into a foyer that provides glimpses beyond of the continuous post-and-beam roof, then round a corner and pass an atrium visible to your right with views up ahead of the rear yard through a large glass wall.
As the sloping site drops away from the street, the house continues to step down to a large living room that’s bounded on both sides by glass walls. Look to the rear to take in the larger-than-usual green and natural back yard. Look back toward the street to see the landscaped atrium and beyond that a wall of trees separating the house from the street. The indoor/outdoor feeling in the house is most intense in the living room, but certainly present in every room of the house.
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The changing moods of nature are reflected in the house due to the direct outdoor views at nearly every vantage
point in the house. But with the house being on a large, wooded lot and down below the street, the owners are
connected to nature all around but still afforded privacy from all sides. Although very open and connected to
nature, the house is not at the mercy of the elements. Roof overhangs protect outdoor spaces and shade the
house from unwanted sun. Where unwanted sun couldn’t be shaded, heat mirror glass keeps the heat out so
that there is no need for air conditioning in this house.
The large aluminum sliding doors and windows are insulated and most have thermally-broken frames, the walls and roof are super-insulated, and the in-floor radiant heat is in a separate, insulated radiant slab, so even with expansive glass, the energy performance of this house exceeded California’s strict energy code by almost 40%.


Exterior Finish: Painted acrylic stuco, Custom stacked stone, Concrete
Window / Doors all Fleetwood
Floors all finished concrete slabs with radiant heating
Kitchen cabinets all walnut
Kitchen countertops all natural stone
Bathroom countertops all Cesar Stone
Interior wall painted with a stacked stone fireplace
Dishwasher – Bausch
Lighting all Amerlux
Exposed beams all painted.
Klopf Architecture Project Team: John Klopf, AIA, Geoff Campen, Angela Todorova, and Jeff Prose
Structural Engineer: Alex Rood, SE, Fulcrum Engineering (now Pivot Engineering)
Landscape Designer (atrium): Yoshi Chiba, Chiba’s Gardening
Landscape Designer (rear lawn): Aldo Sepulveda, Sepulveda Landscaping
Contractor: Augie Peccei, Coast to Coast Construction
Photography © 2015 Mariko Reed
Location: Belmont, CA
Year completed: 2015
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