Here’s one of Ted Bonneau’s latest projects.

The setting is really something else — gorgeous wooded site, mountain vistas, gray shades of oak with an olive green canopy, overlooking  golden summer fields — that’s the San Francisco Bay Area, where my son and his family live.

Here’s his story about this beautiful house.

Jane and Charlie Long bought their 1977-era house in Oakland Hills because of its gorgeous views and incredible setting – two-plus acres on a beautiful  heavily wooded ridge, overlooking open space, valley, Mount Diablo, and  the San Francisco Bay.

7interior lr
Views from the living room
1exterior 2
Exterior 1

The previous owner was a blind person, with no family, so the 3,400-square-foot house had only had one bedroom, many small divided rooms, dark hallways and did not take advantage of the spectacular views.

5exterior vertical 1
Angles around trees

The octagonal split-level living room in this outdated house had a “pizza hut” roof, fake stone-clad, double-sided and load-bearing fireplace.

The exterior was stucco siding with inlaid wood boards, topped with a wood-shake roof – sort of a confused mid-century modern/Tudor combination.

3outside steps
Steps to side deck
8interior skylight 1
Sky views

We were awarded the project because our design utilized more of the existing bones of the building while achieving all of the owners’ programmatic needs.

Our design consolidated circulation with a more gracious open stair and wide upper hallway, linking the three levels of the house with a new centrally located, mid-level, two-story entry foyer, with a lot of glass.

Views from the deck

We eliminated many interior walls and opened up the floor plan to suite the owners’ lifestyle. We removed the large, cylindrical, two-sided, load-bearing fireplace in the center of the octagonal living room, changed the split-level living room into one level, and relocated the kitchen adjacent to the octagon.

3outside steps
Steps to side deck

We replaced the fireplace with a steel compression ring, topped by an octagonal, pyramidal skylight where the flue used to be, inverting the structural concept. We built a new fireplace on the perimeter of the octagon and created a peninsular counter between the kitchen and the octagonal room, creating a great room and allowing for the best views of house towards Mount Diablo through both of these spaces.

We also created a large deck off the great room so that Jane and Charlie could enjoy the views while outside.

We added to the house at the ground level for two additional bedrooms – guest rooms for the family’s grown children who visit often.

10interior stairs 2
Stairway and bench

We added a room at the top of the house for a home office. Both Charlie and Jane work from home – we called the new office the “tree house room” because it really feels like you are up in the trees.

One major design issue was lack of natural light inside the house due to the heavily wooded nature of the site. We added nine skylights to combat this, and the open nature of the new floor plan also helps.
Preserving the existing trees on the site was not only a requirement of the Oakland Planning department but also a desire of the owners. The new exterior stair to the front door winds through the existing trees, and a hole was created in the new foyer roof through which an Oak tree limb passes.

We selected materials, both inside and out, to blend in with the surroundings, an absolute requirement of the Longs who love the modern style, but hate the modern “white box” look.

The exterior pallet is a combination of natural materials, including board-form concrete, steel-trowel stucco with a integral, warm gray/beige color, ipe wood siding and zinc roofing.


The existing house was a combination of sloped roofs and flat roofs, a result of the original house plus an addition that didn’t tie in very well with the existing. To remedy this, we cladded the roof fascias with zinc and infilled under the exterior eaves with stucco soffits, which emphasized the horizontal lines of the roof eaves. To support the new contemporary look of the house and to keep window frames minimal for more glass expanse to make use of views, we used aluminum frame windows, black in color because black mullions disappear.

We used thermally broken window frames, so that the aluminum windows perform as well thermally as wood frame windows do.

Inside the house, Jane was very involved in the selection of materials. She was inspired by the reds and greens of the many Manzanita trees on the site. The flooring is Brazilian Cherry, and the cabinets are Sapele, reclaimed Koa and Jatoba, all deep reds with strong horizontal grain characteristics. Green comes from the stone in the house, from the Jurassic Green Granite counters in the kitchen, Deoli Green Slate in the entry foyer and master bathroom, and green-veined marble counters in the master bathroom.


  1. This is beautiful home. I’m not a big fan of contemporary design but this is spectacular home and it honors the surroundings beautifully.


    1. What’s interesting about that “neck of the woods,” there are old houses, brown shingled or redwood, that sit in the hills, and, I think that contemporary houses fit in very well…


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