• 04.14.17

This Is How The Apple Store’s Architects Design A House

It’s about materials, structure, and connecting with the site.

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the architecture firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, but you’d recognize its work instantly. The 52-year-old practice has masterminded more than 70 of Apple’s stores, both stateside and abroad, communicating the tech company’s sensibility in physical space. And for a rare few who can foot the bill, BCJ also designs private homes that have as much care and attention to detail as those pristine retail environments.


In Los Altos, California–a posh Silicon Valley suburb–BCJ designed a 5,300-square-foot modern interpretation of a ranch house, which recently won a 2017 AIA Housing Award. Sited on a busy thoroughfare, the house posed a difficult architectural challenge: how to create a quiet refuge while embracing outdoor living.

[Photo: Nic Lehoux/courtesy AIA]
Done up in cedar wood cladding, the house’s street-facing side manages to offer privacy without feeling like a fortress. The front door is set back from the street and accessed via a small receiving U-shaped courtyard that’s oriented around a mature Japanese maple tree. Recognizing the need for privacy, the architects used windows on this side sparingly, and placed the only floor-to-ceiling glazing behind the tree and in the corners, which are slightly recessed. Clerestory windows–a slim band of windows between the ceiling and top of the walls–help daylight naturally illuminate the open-plan living-dining area and kitchen while also maintaining privacy.

The house features a standing-seam metal roof that’s supported by  laminated wood beams and a galvanized steel frame, both of which are exposed, revealing how the structure is engineered–a hallmark of BCJ’s architecture.

[Photo: Nic Lehoux/courtesy AIA]
While the house’s street side is more opaque, the rear is more transparent. A wall of windows faces a patio with a pool, built-in pizza oven and grill, and meadow planted with native grasses. Deep eaves shade a dining area and also help with passive cooling.

“In the master bedroom, one can hear the trickling of water and quiet rustling of trees coming from the meditation garden just outside,” BCJ writes in the house’s project description. “It is these moments, when the outdoors extend inside, that help anchor the building to site.”

It’s this relationship between house and landscape that caught the AIA jury’s eye. “The house is insular in focus but gives generous outdoor space for extending the indoors out,” they commented.


See the house in the slide show above and on

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.