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The Best Residential Architects and Designers in Silicon Valley

December 20, 2017 17 Min Read


The following firms are being recognized for their extensive and important contributions to high-end Silicon Valley residences. Many of the firms have roots in the Bay Area, giving them close connections to their work and a profound respect for the region, climate, and natural landscapes. These getaways, often tucked away in forests or atop hillsides are beautiful creations that are redefining the modern home. Innovative approaches to dealing with the landscape, climate, and use of unique and sustainable materials is a common thread, resulting in gorgeous works that put Silicon Valley homes on the map.

This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.

Top Architects

Topos Architecture

Peter Baltay

654 Gilman Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

About Topos Architecture

Topos is an architecture firm founded in 1992 by Principal architect Peter Baltay. Peter has over 25 years of experience designing, building, and remodeling homes. He has a Master of Architecture from the University of Washington and a Master of Science in Structural Engineering. As a fairly small team of seven, Topos executes at a high-end level, providing custom home designs, remodels, renovations, and additions to the Silicon Valley area. Topos prides itself on projects that are uniquely designed to fit their intended space — their projects tend to fit the environment and client in order to create a healthy sense of place. A number of their latest projects feature beautiful homes in Palo Alto and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Featured Projects

Topos designed a beautiful new Mediterranean-style home for a family that features office space for the parents, extensive window and light wells with gorgeous landscaping, and masonry finishes to bring in lots of light. The beautiful views allow for a peaceful experience, and the home also features open kitchen, living, and dining rooms for a family-friendly lifestyle. Details include Italian mahogany windows, hand-split limestone, and antique clay roof tiles. The home is truly a Tuscan Villa with a modern flare. The Page Mill House is an exquisite home that sits atop a canyon that overlooks Silicon Valley. The home was built for a couple who are research scientists. There’s a beautiful view from the high windows that look out into the city, while the use of oak parallels the natural aspect of the trees and elements of that hillside. Exposed posts and beams were actually recycled from an 1800s mill, which makes the structure appear almost like a mill itself.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Peter Bohlin
Bernard J. Cywinski (+)
Karl Backus
Ray Calabro
Steven Chaitow

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA Gold Medal,
AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project Awards

49 Geary Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94108

About Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is an internationally recognized and award-winning architect. They have been recognized by Green Projects and has received an AIA Architecture Firm Award and an AIA Gold Medal. BCJ’s work was initially focused on energy efficiency and environmentally conscious design, and it remains a central focus of the firm today. To Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the most important aspect of the design process is the ability to harvest the climate of a particular site and to take into account the places where he can make the most of the elements and create the most efficient structure. Across the US, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is behind several notable commercial buildings and projects, as well as some innovative residential work but is on this list for specific projects in the Silicon Valley Area.

Featured Projects

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is responsible for an award-winning residence in Los Altos. This family home was a modern take on the California ranch that the clients wanted, and features the use and central focus of natural trees and landscapes growing in the area. The home is a peaceful and beautiful getaway from a more urban environment. The design began around an existing Japanese maple tree and takes into account the mild climate of Silicon Valley. The windows and doors are designed to fill the home with air and light. Sliding doors allow for the indoors to blend with the outdoors. The site features a meditation garden just outside the master bedroom for the ultimate in calm and peaceful aesthetics. There is a natural crispness to the design and the palette, which maintains a simple and tranquil feel. BCJ also worked on a beautiful farmhouse style home in wine country, in Calistoga, CA. The home is located in the midst of grape vines and walnut trees, and complements the clients’ styles and passions as winemakers. The remodel included strengthening and simplifying the floor plan and creating more unity and flow within the structure.

Square Three Design Studios

Tom Carrubba

900 High Street, Suite 3, Palo Alto, CA 94301

About Square Three Design Studios

Square Three Studios is a Palo Alto-based firm that has completed a number of diverse projects ranging from small residential remodels to multi-million-dollar commercial projects. The firm is built upon uncompromising service and genuine communication and rapport with their clients. Square Three Studios believes in a modern and updated approach and the use of the latest technology, using software like CAD to create designs and models with accuracy and flexibility. As a firm, they value working collaboratively with each other as well as with consultants, government agencies, and trade industries in order to create successful project execution.

Featured Projects

In the latest news around Square Three Studios, they are being featured in the AIA Silicon Valley Home Tour. The home is in Menlo Park and was inspired by contemporary 1950s-style homes, which often feature large expanses of glass — open plans that feature marrying the indoors with the outdoors. The stylistic detail will be featured, including low-profile roof planes, trellis structures, and a variety of finish materials, including stucco, wood, steel, and brick. Another Palo Alto home features a beautiful family residence that blends the modern and comfortable. The kitchen features full sliding glass doors that open up into the backyard and give the area a bright, open feel. The home has built-in shelving and fun nooks and crannies that add a playful and whimsical touch. The wood exterior makes the structure reminiscent of a cozy lodge.

Timeline Design

Matthew Harrigan

NARI Meta Awards

14401 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070

About Timeline Design

Timeline Design is located in Saratoga, CA, just south of Cupertino, and was established by Matthew Harrigan in 1990. Harrigan’s passion for quality and planning established Timeline Design with a mission that every project be “on time and on budget.” Timeline has been committed to providing timely results and communicating with their clients in order to build strong relationships. Timeline is truly a top tier firm with a long list of awards to their name, including Meta awards from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and recognition as one of the “Big 50” by Remodeling Magazine in 2002. The firm was also named one of the Top 50 fastest-growing, privately held companies in Silicon Valley in 2005. Their work has been featured in Design/Build Business, Kitchen & Bath Business, Remodeling Magazine, Eichler News Network, and San Jose Magazine.

Featured Projects

Timeline Design has a long list of custom home projects that are well-crafted with iconic looks that bring quality and detail to Silicon Valley residences. One in particular is a Craftsman-style home in Cupertino, California. The home features a Craftsman-style interior and exterior with traditional and modern touches that fit with the client’s style. The oak floors are highlighted by a downplayed paint sheen, and the residence features sun tunnels to enable natural light. A flow is created in the house by a two-sided fireplace, and vaulted ceilings to make the home feel more spacious and grand. The bathrooms feature mixed tiles and textures to create a playful and rich aesthetic. The home makes for a cozy, family space with beautiful detail and decor. Additionally, a custom home in Saratoga features dark wood floors, big windows, and classic features like crown molding and archways to create an elegant but comfortable atmosphere for a family. The more traditional kitchen features custom cabinets and a large island that invites entertaining.

Mattingly Thaler Architecture

Judith Mattingly
Peter Thaler

646 Church Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

About Mattingly Thaler Architecture

Mattingly Thaler is a full-service architecture firm that includes planning and interior design for a variety of projects. The firm was founded in 1988 and values design excellence and professional service. Mattingly Thaler is known for high-quality custom homes, educational facilities, commercial interiors, restaurants, galleries, and more. Their work includes new custom homes, additions, estate plans, and green building strategies. Mattingly Thaler was founded by Judith Mattingly and Peter Thaler. Mattingly has a Master of Architecture from Harvard and has a background in high-end residential projects across the Bay Area, as well as restaurants, commercial interiors, campus buildings, and dormitories. Thaler also has a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard. Peter has experience with a number of commercial projects and private homes.

Featured Projects

The Silicon Valley Retreat is a project that sits in the middle of a forest of oak and fir, allowing for a true “off the grid” vibe. The glass walls and decks make use of the natural landscape and allow the scenery to be soaked in. The structure features built-in solar for energy efficiency as well as ventilation. An infinity pool and bocce ball court make this space a perfect getaway, and the ultra-modern decor creates a fun and lively energy, perfect for company or group retreats. Another gorgeous work is the Sea Cliff home, which sits right on the water with a view of the Golden Gate bridge. The project was designed to create a zen-like feel, featuring redwood siding, copper roofs, and a Japanese garden. There are beautiful details that make the home truly special, like a curved staircase with a basket weave stainless steel railing, and a curved glass wall leading into the home office.

Mark English Architects

Mark English

Gold Nugget Merit Awards,
Watermark Grand Awards

523 Francisco Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

About Mark English Architects

Mark English founded Mark English Architects in 1992 and built his firm on sustainable, lasting design. His firm has specialized in custom homes, work, and entertainment projects. Their residential projects are rightfully focused on urban settings and context, given that half of their work is in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. Mark is also the editor of two online architecture magazines, The Architect’s Take and Green Compliance Plus, making him a thought leader and voice of influence in the industry. Mark English Architects has a number of accolades, including the Merit Award from Gold Nugget Awards 2017, named the Grand Award Winner from Watermark Awards, and recognition in several publications in a variety of magazines and books.

Featured Projects

One of the homes in Los Gatos built by Mark English Architects is a striking creation that features incredible detail and innovative design. It features a stained-glass entryway and a variety of textures and materials with sleek minimalist decor that lets the design and vaulted wood panel ceilings speak for themselves. The high glass windows open up and allow much of the living room to be exposed to natural sunlight. There is a deck that runs alongside almost the entire structure to take full advantage of the view and elevation. The Olive Tree residence is a new home that was built in the Los Altos area with a breathtaking view of the Santa Clara Valley below. The home was designed for a couple who enjoys entertaining, so it has an open plan with a great flow to allow for the perfect environment for hosting. There are various rooms to accommodate different types of spaces, including a fireplace and seating area, a bright and lively kitchen with deep orange accents, a dining area, and a piano room. Ambient lighting and ceiling articulation create the ultimate example of modern sophistication.

Mark Brand Architecture

Mark Brand

1339 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

About Mark Brand Architecture

Mark Brand is an architecture and interior design firm that combines more than 30 years of experience with award-winning design. As for an aesthetic, MBA values high-end design with practical elements combined with understated elegance and a touch of drama. That said, MBA home projects are pretty eclectic, ranging in style and tastes based on their client. They would rather incorporate a number of influences to bring a unique vision to life. MBA values their relationships with clients, as well as their ability to work efficiently with partners in planning and building. Mark received his architecture degree from UC Berkeley and has experience with several notable firms in the Bay Area. His work has been published in the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Metropolitan Home, Home, Pink, and more.

“I am inspired by all sorts of things, the world around me, my clients, music, my employees…  The list goes on.  I am very open to new directions and influences and keep my eyes and my mind open.” – Mark Brand

Featured Projects

One of MBA’s projects features a modern-made-modern again makeover for home in Portola Valley. The space is a 1980s modernist house in some dire need of upgrades and changes, including a sunroom that got so hot it was unusable. As a result, the sunroom was completely demolished to be replaced by a new dining room that opened up into a rejuvenated living room and kitchen. A home office and deck were added above, and all the exterior windows were replaced. Sliding aluminum doors opened up the home a bit and allowed for a more enjoyable view of the woods and hillside. Railings kept the space safe, given that the deck was over 50 feet above the ground. The exterior featured stucco in various shades of gray, white, and black to create new lines and proportions. The master suite was also remodeled, along with the powder room. The Mullet House in San Francisco features a playful take on the concept of “business in the front and party in the back.” The client wanted a truly modern update, but due to the protests of neighbors, a compromise had to be made. As a result, the structure had a more Craftsman-style front and a modern interior and back. The remodel featured a beautiful deck with glass guardrails, a custom zigzag staircase, and an asymmetrical fireplace.

Swatt Miers Architects

Robert Swatt
Geoge Miers

Golden Nugget Merit Awards,
AIA Honor Awards,
ASID Design Excellence Awards

5845 Doyle Street, Suite 104, Emeryville, CA 94608

About Swatt Miers Architects

Swatt Miers Architects came about as a merger of two established firms in the San Francisco Bay Area: Swatt Architects and George Miers and Associates. Together they formed a company that would stand for beautiful, sustainable design and quality service. Swatt Miers has received a number of accolades with over 70 awards on local, regional, and national levels. This includes the prestigious National Honor Award from the AIA. Swatt Miers projects have been featured in Architecture, Domas, GA Houses, Interior Design, Hinge, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Process Architecture, Progressive Architecture, and more. Principals include Michael Gale, Julie Liberman, Ivan Olds, Miya Muraki, Connie Wong, and Phoebe Wong-Oliveros.

Featured Projects

SMA was hired to design a Palo Alto home for a family from Israel who had four children. The clients themselves had a passion for architecture, and so the result was a truly collaborative effort that took into consideration the couple’s appreciation for unique materials and details. The key features include cast-in-place concrete, limestone, colored stucco, redwood, and glass set in aluminum frames. The design concept featured two main wings of the home, with one more centered around the adults with a more public feel, and the other more focused on the children’s spaces and guest areas. The central entrance links the two wings and is a source of circulation. The steel-framed stairs bring together various levels of the home, and the exposed steel columns give the space a modern, industrial feel. A modern residence in Berkeley Hills featured a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Diablo. The geometric structure sits atop a hill and is a striking site standing at three stories. The residence itself takes full advantage of the prime location and view, featuring a two-story, glass-enclosed family and living room that overlooks the San Francisco Bay.

Malcolm Davis Architecture

Malcolm Davis

AIA Citation Award,
Sea Ranch Design Award

2130 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

About Malcolm Davis Architecture

Malcolm Davis Architecture has been in business since 1991 and has designed award-winning work across Northern California, as well as in New York, Wyoming, and Oregon. To Malcolm David Architecture, context is at the center of everything. They believe in strong interior, classic form, and site-specific design. Natural light is a central focus, and MDA prides itself on thoughtful, curated approaches to their client needs and the ability to bring warm elements to modern design techniques. Malcolm Davis, founder and principal, is from the Bay Area himself, so has a strong passion and appreciation for the region. He was born in Berkeley, where he also attended UC Berkeley for both his B.A. and M.A. in Architecture. He’s a problem solver with a restrained palette, who brings over 25 years of experience to his firm.

Featured Projects

One Silicon Valley home is deeply inspired by its Northern California context and climate, utilizing the concept of indoor-outdoor elements to bring out the California lifestyle. The home itself sits among redwoods and oak trees and resembles a modern style villa, giving the structure a retreat and getaway feel that just happens to also be the client’s home. Another project features a home in Palo Alto with a contemporary, Mission-style, featuring a stark white exterior and clay roof. The high glass windows create a more modern, updated look that also allows for a brighter, more open feel. The interior is accented by colorful decor, creating a cozy and comforting atmosphere. Additional designs feature a home in Portola Valley that is nestled so well into the forest and surrounding elements that it resembles a treehouse. Each design varies from the next and tends to include playful and intricate detail. A look into the work by MDA shows why they are a key player in SIlicon Valley’s residential architecture.

Schwartz and Architecture

Neal J.Z. Schwartz
Wyatt A. Arnold

American Architecture Award

860 Rhode Island Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

About Schwartz and Architecture

Schwartz and Architecture is a tour de force in the Bay Area. Their long list of accolades includes 2017 AIA awards for private homes, a feature in Dwell for residential projects, an American Architecture award for the Overlook Guest House, a Remodeling Design award for Shou Sugi Ban Bath, and a list of features in the New York Times, Wallpaper magazine, SF Magazine, SF C&G Magazine, ArchDaily, and more. Neal Schwartz founded SaA after several years of working with other firms. With dual master’s degrees in architecture and public policy, Schwartz brings a unique perspective to his projects and a talent for managing complex design projects, as well as dealing with permits and what can be a complicated construction process.

Featured Projects

The Overlook Guest House conquered unique challenges, including a site that was so steep and so densely wooded that it was nearly undevelopable. SaA fortunately rose to the challenge to create a beautiful and accessible addition that allowed an elderly family to live separately and still remain close to the main house. The guest house is a 775-square-foot home with two bedrooms and takes into account accessibility and movement for a mobility-impaired tenant. A courtyard space combines the indoors and outdoors, while also allowing for airflow for comfort.\nThe Shou Sugi Ban House was an extensive remodel and addition to a modern home in the Silicon Valley area, specifically the Los Gatos neighborhood. The exterior features traditional Shou Sugi Ban burnt wood siding. Natural textiles were important to the remodel aspect, while the addition resulted in a family room and an upper guest room. This home won awards for the bathroom remodel, as well as a list of features in several publications. As a result, SaA is an icon in contemporary Silicon Valley homes.


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at San Francisco Architects with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at San Francisco Architects, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration

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