When architect Malika Junaid and husband Junaid Qurashi sit down to dinner, the barest turn of the head reveals one spectacular view after another: the Silicon Valley landscape dotted with leafy green trees, the blue California sky, the pristine minimalist architecture of the ultramodern home.
But if a dinner guest looks down, there is a whole other world waiting. The dining table’s perch, a cantilevered glass-bottomed circular design, seems to float over a 60-foot indoor swimming pool lined with miniature mosaic tiles, designed by custom mosaic manufacturer Artaic, that reflect the image of Michelangelo’s “Hand of God and Adam” sculpture. The effect is sensational, without losing a bit of the home’s intimacy.
“The circular dining area is a philosophical take of circle of life,” says Junaid, who designed the home through her Palo Alto, California firm, M.Design Architects. Junaid, Qurashi, a tech entrepreneur, and their two children live in the one-of-a-kind house that overlooks the Los Altos Hills.
The family knew from the beginning that they wanted the dining space to be cantilevered over the pool and focused on the outdoors. With that established, Junaid says, their thoughts turned to the 1960s TV series “Star Trek,” a cinematic treat for the family. “We thought of introducing our love of Star Trek in the way the support is designed for this dining area,” Junaid says of the dining space. (If you envision Starship Enterprise in the dining space, you’re not alone.)
The dining area is part of the 10,000-square-foot home’s great room, where precise technology meets beauty. The main living area’s massive glass walls include a 23-foot-tall aircraft hangar-style hydraulic door with electric photo eye sensors, opening the house to the outdoor landscape and unhindered views of the skyline behind. This feature is the family’s favorite place in the house, Junaid says. “The feature we love the most is the outdoor-indoor connection that we have created, with the big windows and the aircraft hangar door. We love the interaction with nature and how the house becomes part of nature when desired.”
The feature is just one example of the couple’s original intent when they planned the house: to marry the healing effect of nature, the best in smart technology, and sustainable principles.
“The whole idea was to extend the home to be part of the nature,” Junaid says. Many designers, she says, think hard about how the home blends with nature, but from the outside. “However,” the architect notes, “very often the occupants’ time is spent indoors; and in order to really be part of the surroundings, you need to open the house, where the house, its boundaries, and the site all merge.”
The sweeping glass walls give an uninterrupted view from the moment a visitor steps into the home’s threshold.
A slew of other high-tech features abound, including wrist communicators for each member of the family; an 18-foot glass backsplash that conceals a wall of appliances and disappears with a touch; and smart devices that control windows, doors, and the temperature of the pool. In another Star Trek burst of ingenuity, there is a pneumatic elevator that looks like an old-fashioned mail tube chute. (Think of “Beam me up, Scotty.”)
For Junaid and Qurashi, using sustainable principles, driven by technology, was a no-brainer. “We have used sustainable, maintenance-free materials,” Junaid says. “Everything is easy to clean. Technology is a big part of this home.”
The home, a smart structure with its own brain center, is so efficient that many menial tasks are taken care of. “Home technology simplifies the life of busy parents,” Junaid adds. “We can focus on meaningful tasks and let the smart home take care of the rest.”
The family chooses what time they want the lights to turn on when it gets dark and the intensity of the lights. (It varies in each room and is controlled by a simple command). Curtains open in the morning on a set timer, allowing sunlight to shine into the interior. A rainfall turns on the irrigation systems.
Other smart features let the couple know when their kids get home from school and if someone is approaching the house. The gate opens automatically when the family members are close by.
As Junaid says, “Basically everything is programmed according to our likes and needs.”