Bay Area Architects Share the Hottest High-End Features from Their Custom Projects

Built this year, this nearly 11,000 square-foot residence in Los Altos Hills is on the market with the DeLeon Realty Team for $18 million.While natural light, views and space will always be the ultimate luxuries, cutting-edge building products and technologies can be just as impressive in the right hands. We spoke to leading Bay Area architects and developers about the hottest high-end features they are specifying for their custom projects.

To achieve maximum curb appeal, architects often design impressively scaled doors. Taking the grand entrance to the next level, they are now specifying offset pivot doors—oversized doors that pivot on an axis instead of hinges—to great dramatic effect. Victor Mezhvinsky, founder of MT Development, recently installed a state-of-the-art Oikos offset pivot door at a Glen Park residence. Swatt | Miers architects also recently designed a custom, ever-so-slightly translucent glass pivot door to grace the entrance of a Portola Valley Home. For even greater wow factor, Mezhvinsky has also installed several retractable glass roofs, including an enormous 16-by-10-foot skylight in a Cow Hollow home (And since skylights don’t count towards residential height limitations—they can sit two feet above the ceiling—they allow for more interior space).

Four-by-four-foot tiles were employed by architect Carrie Bernstein in a Berkeley home.While walls of sliding glass have become de rigueur in modern settings, there are innovative new options. To bring a sense of transparency to a house in Pacific Heights, Jensen Architects (the firm responsible for the design of new arts center Minnesota Street Project) turned to Swiss company Vitrocsa, who makes the most minimalist sliding doors in the industry. Notes principal Frank Merritt: “It’s amazing the size of glass you get with such little frame.”

Sophisticated surfaces are another opportunity to give a home polish. Developer Melvin Vaughn of Vaughn House recently installed a Mataverde Eurotec decking system at a new estate in the Los Altos Hills (listed for $18 million with DeLeon Realty). The ipe-wood boards attach to metal rails via hidden clips, so there are no screws to mar the deck surface.  New technology is also driving large-scale tile; architect Cary Bernstein is using large-format porcelain tile in a Berkeley home—she chose a four-by-four-foot tile with a subtle raised texture from the Dechirer line by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina.

Four-by-four-foot tiles were employed by architect Carrie Berstein in a Berkeley home.A less-glamorous­—but extremely significant—home feature is the heating and cooling system. “We’ve found that traditional HVAC systems are often incompatible with the clean, thin lines of modern architecture, and our clients are also concerned with the allergens that they distribute,” says architect Mark English. He is finishing up one of the first homes in the area where both heating and cooling are handled through a hydronic system. While hydronic heating systems that run hot water through pipes in the floor are common, the Atherton estate’s Daikin Altherma hydronic system also uses chilled water for cooling. It manages 10 separate zones in the home so that each area can have its own temperature setting—a luxury that can’t be seen but can certainly be appreciated.