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Walker Warner Architects design Portola Valley Barn in Portola Valley, California, USA

Project name:
Portola Valley Barn
Architecture firm:
Walker Warner Architects
Portola Valley, California, USA
Matthew Millman
Principal architect:
Greg Warner
Design team:
Greg Warner, Thomas Clapper, Dan Hruby, Brian Lang, Mark McPhie
Cabinetry Design: NorthStar WoodWorks
Interior design:
Selby House Ltd.
Built area:
5,200 ft²
Site area:
4 acre
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
Environmental & MEP:
Janell Denler Hobart Gardens
Eric Johnson Associates
Tools used:
Gentry Construction Inc.
Wood, Glass, Stone, Metal
Residential › House

Walker Warner Architects: The Portola Valley Barn is a dynamic space, separate from an existing main residence, designed for large-scale entertaining as well as relaxation. Reminiscent of the tin-roofed, weathered rural vernacular of the picturesque surroundings, the compound comprises three primary structures—a spacious home office, a home theater and a luxurious guest suite—connected by interstitial entryways containing a kitchen and powder room. The exterior of the main structures is composed of weathered materials intended to blend into their surroundings. In contrast, the contemporary interior features crisply detailed white walls, polished surfaces, and dramatic lighting.

Built on a four-acre property, the 5,200-square-foot barn complex houses guest quarters, an office, and spaces for entertaining and relaxing. The design pays homage to its Portola Valley roots with a present-day twist, interpreting vernacular structures through metals and woods. For exterior walls, the team used reclaimed oak from Kentucky barns, along with ebonized mahogany. The structures feature gabled forms that stretch across a clearing in a grove of trees. Standing-seam metal—painted to resemble zinc—was used for the roof.

“Our clients reside next door to this project but love their existing home and didn’t want to make substantial changes that would disrupt their current lifestyle,” explains Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects. “They were able to acquire the adjacent property with the vision to design an annex of sorts, to accommodate this program without impacting their lifestyle. We intentionally pulled the complex apart to feature three distinct barn-like-pieces, each associated with the primary programmatic elements.”

Rooms feature white walls and polished surfaces. The design team took special care to make the interiors neutral and contemporary. The artwork was purposefully chosen to blend in with the furniture, rather than stand out. “We didn’t want a lot of bold colors in the art to distract from the views,” says Elizabeth Hill of Selby House Ltd. Large expanses of glass provide a strong connection to the scenic terrain. At the center of the composition is a great room, which the family uses for entertaining, charity events and watching Giants games. The room's focal point is a large, 13-foot-wide television. The kitchen features Caesarstone counters, Wood-Mode cabinets and backsplash tiles from Ann Sacks. Appliances include Gaggenau ovens, a Thermador cooktop and a Perlick wine refrigerator. The recreation room contains a pool table, European furniture and a painting by artist Pete Reilly. The sleek master bedroom is outfitted in fresh whites and tonal grays, giving the rustic space a modern feel.

The landscape was designed by Walker Warner Architects in collaboration with Janell Denler Hobart. Plantings include California lilacs, coffee berry and strawberry trees.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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