Float Like a Butterfly


William Duff Architects gives wings to a home on the Peninsula.

Photos by Matthew Millman.

William Duff is a true California Modernist. He began his career designing modern buildings throughout Malibu and Western Los Angeles. Then moved to San Francisco to establish his firm—William Duff Architects in 1998—that focuses on designing avant-garde spaces in a truly collaborative process with their clients. After meeting a family of four who were ready to renovate their existing 1950s home on the Peninsula, the WDA team convinced the clients to start fresh with a cutting-edge home.

An open central stair that is located next to a building-high glass wall, which makes traveling between floors a dynamic experience. Photos by Matthew Millman.
In the dining room, a custom table by Heerenhuis Manufactuur sits below a Lindsay Adelman chandelier. Photos by Matthew Millman.

The wife who is originally from India and the husband from Ireland, inspired WDA to design an exceptional home that honored their heritage. “We used childhood memories of their family’s homes as inspiration for the design of their new home together,” says William Duff.  The clients wanted a home that was modern, comfortable and provided the quintessential indoor-outdoor California lifestyle. “The design approach for this home is hallmarked by open flowing spaces, a connection to the outdoors and warm natural materials,” says Duff. “Another inspiration is Le Corbusier – one of my biggest professional influences. He, of course, was a master of modernism and known for the butterfly roof.”

Accordion doors allow for a close connection to the backyard. Photos by Matthew Millman.
The Gala light fixture by Rich Brilliant Willing hangs over the kitchen island. Photos by Matthew Millman.

WDA designed the main floor around a central courtyard, anchored by a tree and fire pit. “The wife’s family’s ancestral home in India was organized around a courtyard and a lot of the family activity took place in the courtyard,” notes Duff. The courtyard is flanked by the family room, living room and entry, with innovative accordion doors by Southland Windows & Doors that fully open the home to the backyard.  

Temple Lava stone line the fireplace in the formal living area. Photos by Matthew Millman.
Expansive accordion doors fully open the main floor. Photos by Matthew Millman.
A Dellarobia Sectional sits around a coffee table by Buka Design. Photos by Matthew Millman.

The team cleverly installed the deck flooring at the same level of the interior floors so that the space felt continuous when fully opened. While the floor plan allowed for a free-flow of activity, WDA specifically designed each space with acoustic separation while not compromising the openness.

The interior flooring and decking was laid at the same level to create a continuous flow. Photos by Matthew Millman.
A custom wine cellar designed by WDA. Photos by Matthew Millman.
The Agnes Chandelier by Lindsey Adelman sheds light on the master bedroom. Photos by Matthew Millman.
Expansive widows allow for nature to flood in the master bathroom. Photos by Matthew Millman.

The most significant element to the home is the show-stopping, asymmetrical Le Corbusier-style butterfly roof that allowed for additional square footage and expanded views. The now 4,800 square foot home is fully adaptable to any social situation, working both for their family entertaining and large gatherings, while effortlessly connecting them to the outdoors.

A view from the backyard shows the courtyard anchored by a tree as well as the magnificent Butterfly roof.

“When we first interviewed for the project I had a great meeting with the client that ended with us sitting around their outdoor fire pit, admiring the backyard and discussing their ideas and dreams for their new home over a glass of wine,” Duff recalls about the relationship with his clients. “Many hours and months and years of work later the project was complete and they invited the team who had worked on it over to celebrate. I ended up staying until the end and we again found ourselves gathered around the new fire pit, wine in hand this time admiring the new home and how their vision came to life. It was a great moment that captured just how perfectly their dream had been realized.”

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