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All the better to see from Home & Architectural Trends volume 2606
Contemporary homes are typically defined by simplicity, which belies what has gone on behind the scenes in terms of the construction. But the net result is invariably a house that flows well, with a good indoor-outdoor connection.
This contemporary house not only had to meet the needs of a family with young children, it also had to be designed to maximize extensive views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Canyon. For architect Takashi Yanai of Ehrlich Architects, the main challenge was working with a long, narrow site, with the best views from the short boundary.
"In addition to a design that would embrace the view, the house needed to work on two levels," says Yanai. "The owners wanted a formal area for the adults and a more casual family living space for the children. They also needed two outdoor areas – an alfresco dining area for the adults to relax by a pool, and a separate lawn for the children."
The house was consequently designed around a long axis, with a formal, glazed living room off one side to maximize the view. The architect says the orientation reinforces the geometry of the site.
"A series of travertine stone masses defines the ground floor program, while a pristine, floating white box houses the bedroom wings above. This box appears to slide over and past the stone to gesture toward the views – the angle of the end wall echoes the line of the boundary."
The formal living room is a key architectural feature – essentially it is a glass-walled pavilion with a timber roof element that appears to float free of the adjacent stucco wall.
"The pavilion is like a glass jewel box," says Yanai. "It has a real sense of transparency. The large expanse of glass helps to connect the formal and informal domains and allows the view from the family living area to extend right through to the canyon beyond.
"Designed as a totally separate space, the pavilion has a custom walnut ceiling, which hides the lighting and speakers. But this treatment was also a way to set the room apart from the rest of the house, visually. The ceiling and roof read as a solid wood plane, while the stucco part of the house takes the form of a white box, with white walls and ceilings."
Large glass pivoting doors open up the pavilion to the pool area, just as similar doors open up the adjacent formal dining area.
"Many formal living rooms are seldom used," says Yanai. "The pavilion incorporates the entry door and is designed to be enjoyed daily, even if it is just for the borrowed view."
As well as providing separate outdoor areas for the adults and children, inside the house the formal and informal areas are separated by the stair core and play area, and can be closed off from each other by pocket doors.
"Throughout the house, built-in cabinetry is used to divide larger spaces into smaller areas," says Yanai. "In the kitchen-family room, for example, a freestanding bank of cabinets separates the main food preparation area from the informal seating. It also houses the ovens on one side, the television on the other, and provides plenty of storage. Because it is relatively low, the owners can see into the children's area while working in the kitchen."
A counter-to-ceiling window on one side of the room ensures the owners can enjoy green outlooks in both directions.
Light and airy – the formal living area in this new house is like a glass-walled pavilion, anchored by solid travertine walls.
Ehrlich Architects (Culver City, CA), design principal – Steven Ehrlich AIA, principal-in-charge – Takashi Yanai, project team – Jackie Park, Ryan Lobello, Brendan Canning, Ricardo Moura, Karli Molter, Giovanni Vago
Horizon General Contractors
Kitchen designer and manufacturer
Bulthaup Los Angeles
Travertine from Executive Stone; smooth stucco
Sliding doors and windows
Norwood 3070-EX from Fleetwood
Louis Poulsen Wohlert pendant
Eames wire chairs from Herman Miller; Feng sectional sofa from Ligne Roset; Troscan Design Studio Fionna dining table from Holly Hunt; Kilin armchair from LinBrasil
Home theater and audiovisual
DSI Entertainment Systems
Micro Connection Basketweave from Lutron
Bulthaup white laminate; quartered walnut from R Landis Interiors
Bulthaup stainless steel
Oven, microwave and dishwasher
Cooktop and ventilation
French Vanilla marble from Executive Stone; quartered walnut from R Landis Interiors
Zen Garden and Maluku Tan pebbles from Walker Zanger
Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Barry Schwartz