For decades now, architects have been re-thinking the formal living room, replacing it with studies, music rooms and TV dens. Well, a Los Altos architect with roots in Pakistan has come up with a new one: her living room is now her swimming room. That’s right, stretching along the length of the living room is a 40-foot long, four-and-a-half foot deep swimming pool.
"My husband said ‘go for it,’" said Malika Junaid,
who designed the contemporary Guggenheim-esque house for her family. "It’s the best thing we could have done."
The house will be featured Oct. 25 at the Neutra House Tour’s "L.A. Modern" event.
It’s not the only show-stopping detail of this house in plain view for commuters driving down San Antonio Road about a mile outside the village of Los Altos. The stark white stucco home with a circular parapet is a study in curves and angles, each providing an architectural detail as critical to Junaid as the materials she chose _ shadow lines. The work of her favorite architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Meier inspired her.
"I started playing with the form more as a structural piece. The garage wall is at an angle. Why? Because it gave me an overhang over the garage door and created a very nice shadow. At night, we uplight the house and it doesn’t reflect back into the sky."
As intriguing as the exterior is, the design started inside, she said. And that really means the design started with family.
"We have two little girls. Our lifestyle is very casual. We don’t have formal friends," she said. "Everyone is helping in the kitchen, cooking, playing. We wanted to design a house to see everybody and enjoy the lifestyle."
When enjoying the lifestyle means swimming in the living room, certain considerations need to be made. First, while the house appears one-story from the street level, a deep basement was dug for the living room and the pool. Don’t get the idea that this is some ’70s basement rec room with narrow rickety stairs. Far from it. A broad, open staircase descends into the space with a huge skylight illuminating the space. The living room actually looks to be the main space, with the upstairs kitchen, dining room and den appearing as decks or balconies fanning out over the space with ship-like stainless steel railings.
"In this modern world, we’re all so busy," she said. "The idea is that we can all see each other, converse, connect."
From nearly every room in the 6,000 square-foot house _ from the kitchen balcony to the master bedroom’s interior windows _ the Junaids can keep a watchful eye on the girls. A cover remains on the pool unless a parent is swimming with the girls. The elevated pool is flanked by a four-and-a-half foot wall along the front and the wall of the room in the back.
The living room opens to a wide courtyard spanning the width of the house, punctuated by an ornate Pakistani wooden door mounted as a decorative piece on the courtyard wall. She imported the door from her home country, where courtyards are an old design staple and pull in cool breezes. She also commissioned much of the sleek cabinetry from artisans there.
The house is certified "green," Malika said. The curving parapet atop the house conceals solar panels. Air circulation is so good, and humidity so low, she hasn’t had to install air conditioning as she had planned.
To stay close to her daughters, Malika incorporated home office space downstairs. A graduate of the Louisiana State University architecture school, she works with Alpheus Jessup at M.Designs Architects in Palo Alto.
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