2021 RDAA | Custom Outdoor Living Design | Atherton Pavilions | Feldman Architecture

Feldman Architecture completed this backyard design on a flag lot in Atherton, California, in late 2019—just before the world fell apart and everyone was confined to their immediate surroundings. And what surroundings these are—a 1-acre parcel tucked back from the street, safeguarded by a grove of mature redwoods.

The lot provided the canvas, but the clients’ idiosyncratic, worldly program supplied the creative grist. They had bought and remodeled the existing house, but their larger aspirations were focused on what the outdoor areas could become. “They are global travelers who’ve lived in multiple places,” says architect Anjali Iyer. “They had outdoor grills in Spain, outdoor spaces in Utah, and favorite spas they like to visit. They had so many memories and experiences they wanted to bring back home.”

Their chief desires were for two outdoor buildings—a kitchen and a yoga studio—that would knit together with a pool renovation, new paths, and other tweaked landscaping. Feldman’s solution was democratic: two 450-square-foot wooden pavilions floating above their concrete plinths. The kitchen pavilion is open to the elements and spartanly equipped—no sink, no dishwasher, no bathroom. The yoga studio has some small luxuries—a sliding window wall system, in-floor radiant heat, and a mini-split unit—but also no bathroom. “They did not want to trench the landscape with waste lines,” Anjali explains. “They are minimalists who are used to taking the rugged way out.”

The microclimate that supports the redwoods will eventually silver out the pavilions’ cedar exterior and patina the blackened steel, allowing the jewel boxes to recede into their surroundings. 

Through the pandemic, the outdoor oasis sustained the couple and their friends. “We photographed the project earlier this year and it was interesting to learn how they were using the project,” the architect recalls. “They had people spread out in different parts of it. They had pizza parties and socially distanced outdoor movies. She is big into yoga, and she would have her instructor come over. One of them would be inside, behind the sliding glass door, while the other was on the pavilion deck. There were so many vignettes captured within the project.”  

Although Atherton Pavilions looks effortlessly executed, there were myriad constraints—setbacks, views from the existing house, the lackluster pool, and codes prohibiting glare from structures that might reach neighboring properties. The latter accounts for the custom screen solution that shades the top portion of the yoga pavilion’s glazing. 

“Everything we added was in service to the landscape our clients love,” says the architect. “It was prescient on their part to gauge the need for a project like this.”

Custom Outdoor Living Design

Honor Award

Feldman Architecture
Atherton Pavilions
Atherton, California

Project Credits

Architect: Anjali Iyer; Jonathan Feldman, AIA; Michael Trentacosti, Feldman Architecture, San Francisco

Builder: Andrew McHale, Design Line Construction, San Francisco

Landscape Architect: Stefan Thuilot, Thuilot Associates, Berkeley, California

Project Size: 450 square feet per pavilion

Site Size: 1 acre

Photography: Adam Rouse Photography

Key Products

Cabinets: NewAge Stainless Steel (kitchen pavilion)

Cladding/Wallboard: Alaskan Yellow Cedar slats, painted Extira panels

Decking: Thermory

HVAC: Mitsubishi mini-split

Outdoor Refrigerator: Sub-Zero

Paints/Stains: Benjamin Moore, Eco Wood

Pizza Oven: Chicago Brick Oven

Radiant Heat: Nuheat electric mats

Roofing System: Kemper System

Santa Maria Grill: Grillworks

Sauna: Helo Sauna with Himalaya Heater

Vent Hood: Vent-A-Hood

Windows/Window Systems: Fleetwood


Plans and Drawings

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