The layout of SAW’s The Middle Half is deceptively simple: It masses rooms around a central common space with panoramic views of the hills in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco. But until its recent renovation, the 2,746-square-foot midcentury home had a segmented layout of small rooms and a congested core. SAW preserved the home’s outermost rooms and blew out the middle, clearing the way for natural views throughout the house. The remaining rooms were then connected with a new clarity.
“Often when thinking about preserving a thing—a structure, an object, a landscape, a city—one talks about preserving its ‘heart’ or its ‘core,’” Dan Spiegel, co-principal of SAW, told AN Interior. “But in this case, it was the opposite—we were trying to preserve the periphery while completely reimagining the core.” Flowing from the entrance to the backyard, the “core” space encompasses the kitchen and dining, living, and family rooms. Flanked by private spaces on either side, the core space stitches the house together spatially and establishes an orientation toward the sweeping terrain beyond.
Layering old with new, SAW collaborated with the client, interior designer Kina Ingersoll, who selected a palette of reclaimed white oak from local barns for the floors and bookshelf, while white walls, Raw Concrete Caesarstone and PentalQuartz Santenay Honed countertops, Foscarini pendants, and custom cabinetry infuse clarity and modernity. In the kitchen, gray tiles from Sonoma Tilemakers form a neutral backdrop.
Above, the original Douglas fir rafters were refinished to match the warm red cedar siding on the exterior. Outside, the red cedar rafters match the siding and establish a rough, knotty texture that is complemented by the cool-toned galvanized steel supporting columns and beams.
Throughout, “the most critical building elements— the steel and wood beams and columns—break free of the constraints of the interior walls to carve out and define volumes of exterior space,” Megumi Aihara, co-principal of SAW, told AN Interior. These elements frame “views as pictorial scenes.” Exposed structural elements eliminate the need for ornament: The steel beams are playfully revealed in the living room, and the rhythm of wood rafters continues from the front entrance into the backyard, uninterrupted even when skylights pierce the ceiling above. As the structure extends outdoors, material layers are subtracted until only the trellis remains. The composition makes space and defines views, connecting the disparate halves of the home into a cohesive whole.