Filial piety, the core value of China’s ancient sage Confucius, led to a modern masterpiece on Elena Road in Los Altos Hills.
The 8,232-square-foot house offers world-class views along with privacy, low maintenance and high-tech whistles and bells. The simple facade is wood, glass, concrete and stucco.
It was conceived by Simon Yiu and his three sisters – Connie and Winnie Yiu, both of Los Altos, and Lannie Mok of Castro Valley – for their parents.
“We are a very tight family and get together four or five nights a week,” he said. “We wanted to buy land with a bay view and build a house for our parents that would be a gathering place for the family.”
The Yiu family purchased the property in 2010 and enlisted architect Steven Stept of Feldman Architecture in San Francisco, noted for its contemporary designs, and Jay Bakaler of Metro Eighteen, a San Francisco firm specializing in electrical installation, lighting control, audio/video systems and intuitive home automation.
“We wanted clean lines and an open floor plan so that we could gather together with the 11 grandchildren,” Yiu said. “And we wanted our parents to be able to sit on the sofa and control everything in the house.”
“The client was passionate about commissioning a project that was modern, livable and would be a creative and inspired addition to the community,” Stept said.
It took three years to get the first shovel in the ground.
By mid-2014 – four years after buying the property – the siblings had a change of heart.
“We became concerned about our parents driving and hiking up the hill,” Yiu said. “We made the decision to sell and bought our parents a house in Los Altos where they can maintain their independence.”
He was onsite daily during the final phases of construction (it was completed in May) because he wanted everything to be perfect and according to the original plan – from the built-in coffeemaker in the Arclinea kitchen cabinetry from Italy to the Wolf barbecue and Sub-Zero refrigerator in the outdoor kitchen.
Bold yet intimate
The three-level house, which Stept calls “bold yet intimately scaled,” is built into the hillside at the very top of the lot to maximize the view and create a sense of privacy. At the same time, this allowed him to place the infinity pool and outdoor entertaining space on the front side of the house, extending the living space outdoors toward the view.
From the gated perimeter, a long driveway leads to guest parking and, above that, a three-car garage that is invisible from the street. A series of stairs and platforms allow visitors to enjoy the views and the drought-tolerant landscaping as they traverse the steep slope from the guest parking area to the front entry.
A walnut pivot door, echoing the flooring, opens to the central living area – a voluminous two-story space defined by cedar exterior siding and wood-framed windows and doors. The bedroom wings on either side are sculpted stucco.
An eat-at island separates the kitchen from the dining/living spaces. A Montigo fireplace is integrated into a wall made of modularArts interlocking rock panels.
As one would expect, the kitchen is furnished with Miele and Sub-Zero appliances and Caesarstone countertops.
There are two master suites with fireplaces on the main level, plus an office with a view of majestic ancient oaks.
Of the three bedrooms on the second level, one has a balcony with bay views.
Downstairs – the basement, so to speak – are an indoor spa with steam shower and sauna, a movie theater with stadium seating, a mirrored gym and a wine cellar surrounded by glass walls.
But here’s the good part: Everything can be controlled from an iPhone or iPad.
“From anywhere in the world, or from the living room sofa, you can open the gate for a delivery man, open the front door, change the temperature in the house, open the shades and so forth,” Yiu said.
There is a wall-mounted iPad on each of the three levels (did we mention there is an elevator?) and one in each of the master suites. Call it the latest in Savant technology.
What with the drought and green building practices, here are some other pluses, courtesy of the Yiu family’s master plan:
• Solar panels with energy management system
• Radiant heating with multiple zones
• Central forced cooling with five zones
• LED lighting throughout
• 1,400 drought-tolerant plants
But what it all gets down to is the setting.
“The house was sensitively placed. The living space changes throughout the day in terms of the light and the sky,” Stept said. “I’ve been there on rainy days, during twilight hours … and the feeling is magical.”