Nestled in a wooded area, just outside San Francisco California, sits a stunning residential estate. The two acre site, comprised of mature oak and redwood trees, was developed in 2016 with the intent of creating distinctive outdoor spaces ubiquitous with California living.

Studio Green worked closely with the Architect throughout the duration of the design process. The architecture and landscape design takes cues from both European and Californian aesthetic to create a seamless blend of the two styles, while drawing inspiration form the surrounding natural environment. Studio Green started the design process by intentionally creating a series of negative spaces around the exterior of the home. These negative voids allowed for the development of individual outdoor areas and helped established how each space was to be used while complementing the floor plan of the house.

Public areas such as the pool, main patio space, and outdoor kitchen developed in negative space adjacent public realms within the house including the kitchen and family room. More private outdoor seating areas naturally developed in spaces near private areas of the home such as the office and guest house.

After understanding how the residence would be spatially programmed, Studio Green turned its focus towards the user experience for each individual space. Every outdoor area throughout the property needed to be unique, organized, and designed with its own narrative, while being mindful of spatial use. The landscape architecture team decided to capitalize on an existing array of trees, California’s vast native plant palette, and clean geometry through varying forms of hardscape materials.

The user experience begins at the driveway, where guests approaching the house pull past the vehicle gates comprised of intricately woven steel ribbons, and onto the stone cobbled driveway. The rough texture of the cobbled surface conveys an old worldly European charm and softens the approach to the house.

Guests then pass between two low stone walls that flank the entry walkway. The pair of stone walls create a visual threshold for the entry courtyard and a sense of arrival; distinguishing the driveway and main entrance from the house.

The entry courtyard is a dynamic experience, serving both as a corridor leading to the front entry, and offering users a subtle preview of design elements and materials located throughout the landscape design. An asymmetric composition, formed by columnar maple trees on one side and a striking linear steel fountain on the other, spatially balance both sides of the linear courtyard. Collage of varying limestone textures were carefully composed along the entrance walkway to elevate the sense of arrival at the front doors. Clean lines, careful geometry, and subdued planting focus attention on shapes, textures, and forms of material elements.

Located on the South wing of the residence sits the office and library courtyard. A large stone fireplace, open patio seating, simple paving pattern, and evergreen screening plants impart an intimate environment intended for only a few individuals. This outdoor area is fully enclosed by dense evergreen planting to enhance the sense of privacy.

The side garden located along the North edge of the property has its own unique function. The basement level of the house was required to include a lightwell, a small space between the retaining walls and building façade to allow ventilation and light into the basement level. Studio green wanted to approach the standard light well design in a new way. The landscape architect designed a series of terraced board-from concrete, stone, and corten steel planters, which form a sunken garden. The sunken garden functions as the lightwell into the basement, while creating a beautiful view into an inviting space. A centralized concrete firepit is the focal point of the sunken garden. Drought tolerant plants with a wide range of colors and textures are layered throughout the garden. The landscape provides beautiful scenery, while softening the terraced walls of the sunken garden.

Atherton Woodlands is uniquely designed as a collection of distinct buildings and living spaces, all masterfully integrated with individual courtyards and outdoor living spaces; each a sculptural element unto itself. The result is a more dynamic living experience, one that presents an intriguing sense of wonder both inside and out.

Name of the project: Atherton Woodlands
Project category: Private garden
Project location: Atherton, CA
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2016


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