A team of plugged-in professionals have responded to our unofficial One Rincon Hill Penthouse Floor Plan Challenge with an official ORH “OMG!” entry. And this time, it’s not only the floor plan above (click to enlarge), but design notes and 3D rendering that follow.

In the words of our plugged-in architect, Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios:

I approached the 5,900 S.F. penthouse by identifying the ideal buyer: “The Executive”, and then conceptualizing the layout to accommodate his/her particular needs. The office & teleconferencing suite essentially becomes the center-piece. The suite enables the executive to seamlessly conduct business internationally from his/her home, and also embraces the work demands of a part-time assistant managing the executive’s philanthropic-based activities.

At first glace, the initial location of living spaces made sense. Due to the eastern skewed perimeter, the largest social gathering potential is in the northwest corner, and is designated as the Living Room. The southeast corner with views to the bay and minimal telescopic invasion lends best use as the Master Bedroom, and also the adjacent two additional bedrooms with similar views and privacy. The remaining spaces fall into place by functional arrangement…

Composing uninterrupted visual pathways between opposite sides of the building sustains a sense of place and orientation for the occupant. A gallery provides ambient views that lead to a prominent master bedroom entry while generating a north/south visual path on the east side. The north/south visual path on the west side is established through a pair of glass doors to the intimate Lounge and could be an optional 3rd bedroom with a private balcony.

The media room and two bedrooms can be closed off from the rest of the house via a large sliding partition for black-tie events allowing the private spaces to remain functional while entertaining. The media room posed problematic western exposures, but after investigating several options, I found other solutions resulted in a hotbed of winding hallways. So I addressed the issue with motorized black-out shades and a heavy drape.

Special consideration has been given to the plumbing locations and incorporated based on the four individual penthouse plans. The master bath and shower take advantage of the bay views. It appears a drain exists at the interior shaded column. I believe the shower could be raised one step to accommodate a post-p-trap tub drain slope and connection.

Since the main entry is located on the North side, the corridor connecting the master bedroom could be privatized but accessible and rated for egress as required. Laundry and pantry room have been located near the service entry for convenient delivery of goods and housekeeping services.

Thank you SocketSite, I’ve enjoyed the creative exercise and look forward to reading the comments that will follow.

No, thank you. And as if that wasn’t enough, the floor plan as rendered by Kim Chalmers of Steelblue LLC in collaboration with Neorama:

And no, this isn’t the first time this team has collaborated. Thomas was intimately involved in the design of the Penthouse atop the St. Regis while at Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates. And it was through that project that our players first met.

Even if you’re not in the market for an eight-figure penthouse, some great ideas to file away. And once again, cheers to all who participated (including Ryan and flaneur), we have rather high expectations of our readers and yet again you didn’t disappoint.

48 thoughts on “SocketSite’s Unofficial Penthouse Plan Challenge: Life(box) At The Top”
  1. And he’s addressed the sun issue with the media room and the way the doors are situated to the two smaller bedrooms (with the little foyer to the ensuite one), there is more privacy than is usually given when bedrooms adjoin. You could probably put a good soundproofing between them to make them feel more private. All in all a good job.

  2. Now THAT’s a $70 million penthouse (or closer to it).
    And: “The southeast corner with views to the bay and minimal telescopic invasion lends best use as the Master Bedroom” — nice touch!

  3. Very well done, and easily the best of the challenge so far. However, it has nothing on the $70M penthouse at the St. Regis.

  4. Stellar work! I’m the code wonk, so I was wondering when someone would figure out the corridor through the stairway on the right (not sure what actual direction it is). The core design makes creating a grand entry tough, but this solution could work. I love the cahonas it takes to dedicate a corridor to the Bay Bridge view in a multi-million dollar penthouse – why not? And I’m all about taking a steam shower (or soak) with the view. Again, well done.
    (Noearchitect, was your mother once on Wheel of Fortune? If so, I’m and old deskmate with stories to tell about Lee’s vegetable plate!)

  5. Not bad space-planning, but a bit too corporate feeling overall and a little choppy; plus, don’t think I could abide with not having the complete loop of circulation around the core for the whole penthouse (dead end at master bath) — bad flow…

  6. OMG ENTER! To say the least. What an amazing job. I knew it would take a professional to blow us away! Best flow by far, and that master bath… I mean really

  7. Based on the definition of the customer by the architect, I would punt the “lounge,” move the media room to that location and drop in a work station/cubicle for the assistant that will no doubt be on site during work hours.
    Other than that, looks cool. Makes one wish to be a mogul…

  8. Kudos to the architects and Sockesite! Awesome!
    The best part here usually is the snarky comments and the eye for detail by the readership.
    I think citicritter is correct between lack of access between the three bedrooms. That couldn’t possibly work!
    For those who might have missed it the last time, my favorite is [the following from eddy].

  9. Love it! It’s embarrassing how much better this design is than the one the sales office has been circulating. Great job Thomas.

  10. Critcritter –
    Valid point but I think the idea is to restore the complete loop of circulation around the core by privatizing the corridor next to the south exit stairs in the core. Sharkjack, now here is a real technical question, but you are a code wonk: Are two egress stairs required from the elevator vestibule, or just one?
    Anyone care to predict a number of days on the market? My prediction: It will sell before the St. Regis Penthouse. The times aren’t conducive to ostentatious spending.

  11. Nice job!
    If it were me buying it, as an executive, I’d like some sort of partition between my desk and the conference room, and the desk would have to be turned so it didn’t face the table. Otherwise, it’d feel like my office was the conference room. Perhaps swap the position of the two and put the conference room down a bit of a north/south oriented hallway, with an extra set of doors straight ahead as you enter that space, leading to the office?
    Now the potential buyer just has to figure out how to make good use of three elevators. I suppose it would be convenient to have multiple options on call, since one would be sharing access with other people in the building, but still, three elevators?

  12. all I can do is laugh my ass off at all the people who get excited over this floor plan masturbation.
    this is not design.
    this is not architecture.
    this is playing with a 3dhome architect program and being as proud as a 6 year old who makes their first potholder at summer camp to show mom and dad.
    and no, I’m not gonna produce a design because I’m busy working for real clients producing real solutions.
    but this is fun to watch.

  13. Geez, noearch, just because the secret is out that much of what your profession does can be handled by anyone with a a 3dhome architect program doesn’t mean you have to get all pissy. Since architecture is going such gangbusters right now, I’m sure you’ll still have plenty of paying “real” clients for years.

  14. Some of the most creative and orginal designers in this country were, or are not, legally able to call themselves “architects”. I remember laughing while on a tour of Case Study homes in Southern Califoria, many of which were designed by Craig Ellwood, which was orgainized by the AIA, that the dirty secret was that Ellwood was a self taught architect who was perhaps the most ground breaking modernist of his time. It became more bizarre as the tour rolled on past one modernist icon after another which were all built and designed by non-licensed self taught architects, with the highlight of the tour being the Eames House, also designed and built by un-licensed architects.
    Wallace Cunningham is another favorite of mine at the moment, and he is un-licensed and self taught.
    His website is worth a look to see what individualistic inspiration can provide:

  15. Guys, stop laying out the floors. Think about directions. Think about how people live.
    Dinner room should be on the westside for the sunset view.
    Media should should NOT be on the westside. It is difficult to block the afternoon sun completely when you want to watch superbowl.
    Media room should not be too far from the kitchen, when you need your beer.
    Laundry should not be so far from bedrooms.
    By the way, when you have a big house like that, there is no point using 50″ flat panel TV. Design the media room with project in mind for 120″ viewing area.

  16. John-
    I agree except for the bit about laundry and bedrooms. If I’m living there I’m not going to be doing my own laundry, so I want it as far away from the living space as possible.

  17. Completely disagree with John.
    “Dinner room should be on the westside for the sunset view.”
    I’d much rather have the bridge views from the dining room and sunsets from the living room.
    “Media room should not be too far from the kitchen, when you need your beer.”
    Look at the plan, I see a wet bar across from the media room.
    “Design the media room with project in mind for 120″ viewing area.”
    120″ projection screens suck. This space would be better served by a 65″ plasma or maybe:

  18. Steve: good point about the powder room door right next to the fridge, for the sake of the wine cellar; this is in fact actually pretty bad “space-planning” that I didn’t catch on my first glance..
    Morgan: there are far more famous architects than Craig Ellwood who never had formal training in architecture school, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and LeCorbusier. But this in no way proves that any Joeblow with a home design computer program from the supermarket can be a great (or even just good) architect. The above-mentioned guys, including I’m pretty sure Craig Elwood, and definitely Eames, all worked for great architects; absorbing much knowledge and mastery from their employer/mentors. Plus, they obviously had lots of talent to start with — something you simply can’t pick up or buy for any orice.

  19. Like it..but the powder room door right by the fridge (I think) is, at best, gross…
    Gross for sure. Aromas of food and poo should not be mixed.

  20. Michael,
    Your comment about dinner room is valid to some point. The downtown night view is great. However, given the top floor location, it is extremely unlikely that anyone would see the skyline from sitting down position.
    Second, the night view is only good after sunset. So, half of the year you will see the city lights during dinner time, half of the year you won’t.
    Have you tried projector? If not, you don’t know what you miss.
    Web bar is different from kitchen. A cup of wine is fine, but most of the time, people want beer, coke, popcorn, or whatever. You won’t have all of those there.
    rr, the maid is a valid point. Still, that doesn’t mean the laundry should be too far. This should be an easy fix though. Just swap wine cellar and laundry and everyone’s happen.

  21. “The above-mentioned guys, including I’m pretty sure Craig Elwood, and definitely Eames, all worked for great architects; absorbing much knowledge and mastery from their employer/mentors.”
    Really? I think you are wrong on both counts. Ellwood and Eames did not work for other architects, nor did Cunningham. Wright did work for Sullivan, and who knows who suffered with a young Le Corbusier, who at that time would have called himself Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris. As a licensed architect myself, I always remember when observing some colleagues work, that having a license does not mean you have talent.

  22. Looks like others have already spotted the big powder room blunder. To me, that is basic Space Planning 101. I otherwise like the plans, but putting your toilet next to the kitchen is an absolute no-no for me.
    It would be cool if there were easier access from the master to the media room/other bedrooms. Maybe a “secret” passageway, with an one-way door to maintain the privacy factor? Maybe you can cut through the elevator lobby?
    All in all, I appreciate the effort enormously, and think there are many terrific ideas here.

  23. “Just swap wine cellar and laundry and everyone’s happen.”
    No, I disagree. I also at first thought the laundry room was a little far from the master, but the more I think about it, the more I actually think it’s in exactly the right spot.
    1. Current laundry location provides excellent access to the service elevator. Let’s face it: whoever plops down $70M for this place isn’t doing their own laundry. And even if they do, walking even farther to the current wine cellar location exacerbates the problem you’ve identified.
    2. Laundry room should be in “private” part of space. While it’s not within the master suite, it’s still in semi-private space. Moving it to current wine cellar puts lanudry machines front and center in breakfast/living room. Not classy.
    3. Current location operates much like “mud room” you see in other properties. It’s highly unlikely that there will be kids living here full-time, but if there are (or if the owner plays sports), ability to pitch muddy clothes directly into laundry room without tromping around and muddying floors is valuable.

  24. This is cool. How ’bout incorporating unit 5904 into the 3d renderings. That is the unit directly below the dining table on the North East Corner. That unit was available a little while ago (showed a client), but not any more because they’re going to need to access it for plumbing work done to the PH directly above. Might as well annex the darn thing into the mix, right?
    BTW, 5804 is also available and damnit if they aren’t practically giving the thing away. Not really, but there is certainly lots of wiggle room on the price. Crazy views too. Weird being above the Embarcadero Christmas lighting fireworks and also helicopters flying by.
    Nice work Mr. Pippin.

  25. Oh, well, if we’re gonna be picky…
    The powder room off the kitchen doesn’t meet code (unless it has a tightly sealed door – like an exterior door w/ weatherstripping.) In any case I agree with those who think it is unpleasant. There’s really no need for a second half bath anyway. I’d use the space to provide access to the wine room. That way you’d get a clean wall facing the breakfast area.
    There is inadequate closet space throughout. The master bedroom, in particular, needs about twice what is provided (trust me on this one!) Don’t know exactly where this is going to come from though. Probably the master bath.
    The biggest problem, though, is the lack of clearly separated back-of-the-house/front-of-the-house circulation. In other words, the maid needs to be able to take dirty laundry out of the master bedroom to the laundry room and from the laundry room to the linen closet without passing through any of the “public” spaces. In this scheme she (he?) will have to pass through either the dining room or the front entry with the dirty laundry.
    There is no linen closet.
    But, hey, this is a very difficult problem with huge constraints and I still say, even with its negatives, the scheme is very well done!

  26. Morgan,
    Re-read your history: Le Corbusier worked for both Peter Behrens and Auguste Perret — both MAJOR pioneering figures in the history of modern architecture. Eames worked for (or at least, with) Eero Saarinen — another major figure of modern architecture. You may be right about Ellwood not working for someone important, but he certainly borrowed HEAVILY from Mies Van der Rohe, and relied HEAVILY on Robert Peters in his office to see his buildings built. As for Cunningham, he is not even close to being in the same league as the others mentioned

  27. Citicritter, agree with all your comments. My point was simply that “the license” alone does not bring talent to the design. Cunningham, is part of the Southern California trend towards updated Launtneresque designs, another example being Guy Dreier, http://guydreierdesigns.com/, out in the Palm Desert area. I am not sure if I like these types of homes, but am happy that there are still clients out there who are willing to take such risks.
    As for Le Corbusier, what I wrote earlier was that he HAD worked under other architects, but …
    “who knows who suffered with a young Le Corbusier, who at that time would have called himself Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris.”
    I cannot image the pain his strong personality caused in the offices of Perret and Behrens. Thanks for the info. I do agree with Noearch in that there is more to architecture than sliding around walls and rooms on a simple software program, but I myself am happy when clients take interest in the process, and have had more than a few clients arrive with a design already self CAD drawn that they are interested in building.

  28. You folks are too old fashioned. Placing the Chamber of Excremeditation adjacent to the kitchen is pure genius. Think of the input/output efficiencies not unlike the standard kitchen work triangle.

  29. Since there is only one unit on this floor, is it possible to make the two passway private? So the main entrance will be at the elevator, with emergency exits at the stairs.
    This will solve a lot of the flow problem.

  30. I thought the same thing John. There are probably HOA or fire code regulations that prevent the space from being modified. But if you own the whole floor then you essentially have exclusive private access to the elevator/stair lobby. So feel free to cut through there from the media room to the master bedroom barefoot and in your terrycloth shortie robe. You own the place baby !

  31. I think I would have flipped the plan (some of it). Allocating a corridor to bay bridge views – why not double utilize it and have a Grand Foyer enter that direction? Prime view area allocated to things like laundry, skinny corridor etc. seem like a waste. Also – may just be me – just my opin but having lived at the top of an SF high rise with direct city and Bay Bridge views I would rather have my living room face city/bridge views vs. city/twin peaks… perhaps shift the kitchen towards the city/twin peaks – flip sitting area over next to the executive office, flip the piano to bridge side (keeps office area quiet) etc.. Obviously I have not worked this out on paper but the overall idea would be to flip the main flow of the space and rotate other rooms off of that.

  32. I think the solution has some interesting components and some obvious flaws. The master bathroom does not factor in any of the existing plumbing for the unit which will greatly influence the locations of fixtures. I am not sure why there is a dentists waiting room next to the master bedroom; maybe the designer anticipates a long line of women waiting for “face time” with the Gordon Gecko style inhabitant of this weird work driven layout. There is no sense of fun or spectacle in the entrance sequence and I am amazed that for a hypothetical excercise like this you would chose an executive as your dream inhabitant…..its always about work….I can’t help feeling that anyone who lived in this apartment would love to show it off and hold some great parties rather than holding kick-ass conference calls. I would suggest that your plan is a big missed opportunity.

  33. Sonjamin – exactly what I was saying – you of course said it better… The space seems crammed in with little thought given to how the space would actually be used – it does not seem like a home or a place one would invite friends over to; it is too geared towards work like a tenant improvement layout vs. residential. All work and too little play may be how the person moving in got to where they are but having arrived so to speak I am sure they want to expand the horizon a bit – no? Regardless nice job to all who spent the time unpaid I assume putting the drawings together.. design as always invites a variety of opinions.

  34. The new rendering atop a tilted 1RH reminds me of those games where you guide a ball bearing around a maze riddled with holes. Two knobs tilt the maze so you can steer the ball around.
    Another thing that the new image really brings out is how much space of the cross section is consumed with the elevator/stairwell/lobby core. It looks like it consumes 40% of the floorspace. That’s one of the factors that makes high rise homes so expensive.

  35. As the designer of the floor-plan, I am appreciative of the multitude of comments, perspectives, experienced insight, and varied opinions. I thought it would be a simple exercise and posting with few comments. So, thank you for all of your comments, compliments, and sometimes harsh critiques.
    I completely agree that the powder room should not be off the kitchen. There are other alternatives to adjust and have the door come off the Living room and take some area from the wine room. I strongly feel that a powder room is needed at this end of the house.
    RE: Master Bath plumbing.
    In referencing the planned 4 separate units, there “appears” to be plumbing at the column. Based on that assumption, the raised shower floor would drain via “dirty-arm” to a p-trap in the column. The raised tub would drain to a p-trap and travel under the shower floor to the column. I think it’s too important to dismiss this idea as impossible. The master bath deserves a window!
    RE: Circulation from master bed to media room.
    The South core passage was intended to be private and could be achieved by a 20min. rated doors to the corridor while keeping access to that corridor secured unless there’s a fire or scheduled maintenance. Of course, if this were a problem for the owner, the bedroom and ensuite bathroom could be pulled apart like the initial plan with a door to a long and narrow corridor.
    RE: The master sitting room.
    One option would be to give it to the Master Closet and make it larger as some folks suggested. No matter the case, I think it’s a better alternative than entering through the master closet like the original plan from the kitchen. My response to the master suite was to provide a better experience for the owner as they retire to their private bedroom for peace and relaxation.
    RE: Executive office comments.
    That’s the buyer I envisioned and it’s a very real requirement with this caliber of home. Thank you for the suggested partitioning. It boils down to the owner and preference.
    Re: Private Core and corridor codes.
    Some research would need to be done. But, if there’s a smoke-evac. mechanical unit, it gets tricky. The fire dept. wants access to the corridor (especially near the top) to access the stair/elevator/stair components. This would need to be accessible, but with some ingenuity, it could be private. Not to mention the HOA dues for the other occupants would be reduced as a result of lower common area square footage. And then deeds and use-agreements… it’s complicated, but not impossible.
    Thanks to Kim and Neorama. A truly talented group to work with!
    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  36. Great job on the floor plan. Much better than the original. But the building is not designed for a full floor penthouse. It’s obviously possible, but there’s just far too much wasted space in the middle to justify a $12m price tag.

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