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Contemporary new house with intersecting geometric volumes

Modern new house by architect James Choate features strong geometric forms, indoor pool, open-plan living

When your home features a succession of views first a waterway, then an isthmus, and at last, the ocean it is a nice touch to bring a little of the drama inside. A central courtyard pool can create the pleasure of a body of water on two sides of the living spaces.

This contemporary house by architect James Choate celebrates just such an idyllic setting nestled on prime real estate fronting a lagoon only a bend away from the Pacific Ocean. Given the location and land value, the house makes the most of its placement by reaching nearly to the borders of the section, says Choate.

"Because the street is close by, privacy is important, so I designed the front of the house as a series of abstract solid forms in tinted stucco, rich wood, and glass. This strong, compositional form also plays down the scale of the house to passers-by."

At the far end, facing the water, the design angles out on the lower level to follow the bend in the lagoon. The upper level, in contrast, steps back to a straight rectilinear form, allowing space for a triangular master bedroom deck. A cutout roof overhang echoes the shape of the deck and adds to the contemporary aesthetic.


When the front door is open, there is a view through the central courtyard complete with large pool and the living spaces at the far end, out to the lagoon.

"The jetty side of the house is open plan and the pool really does create the feeling that you are surrounded by water," Choate says.

Blessed with a mild Los Angeles climate, the house has two characters. The living area pocket doors retract to make one continuous flow of indoors and outdoors, and the water views, while on the upper level similar doors slide back to open the master bedroom to the deck.

Similarly, the general living areas can be opened up to the central pool as well.

All these operable doors can be closed for privacy when required, and motorised blinds lowered across all glass exterior walls. A blind also shields the master bedroom from the courtyard below.

The setting partially dictates the design in other ways, too. The exterior wall of the courtyard is translucent glass, because the house next door also extends to the borders of the site. This glazing ensures the neighbours, though close, remain out of sight.

Stringent height limits apply in this location, and recent regulations have required the main floor to be raised above ground level to guard against potential flooding. While these factors kept room heights under 3m, the central courtyard is taller than it is wide, adding a sense of verticality to the interiors.

The courtyard also acts as a solar chimney, channeling breezes up through the home.

"A limited material palette adds to the drama of the rectilinear home," says Choate. "There are really only panes of glass, structural steel, wood panels and stucco, complemented by the cool white of the sheet cast interior walls and ceilings.

"However, the clean, modernist lines need warmth, too, for a more cosy, human response. To help achieve this, I specified red cedar with a prominent grain, along with the hand-worked beige stucco. I had the stucco tinted rather than painted, to avoid a flat look. Light catching the tint on the surface creates multiple shades, making the texture appear more prominent. For this to be effective, the stucco needs to be applied subtly."

In terms of layout, the residence is quite conventional, with a run of open public spaces downstairs and bedrooms and a study upstairs. The sculptural feel of the exterior continues on the interiors, which also read as intersecting, or overlapping, planes and lines.

In the master bedroom a freestanding vanity element is all that separates the bathing and sleeping areas. On the bedroom side, this appears as a bookcase.

"In a sense, the house is an extension of the views that surround it," says Choate. "The courtyard pool adds one more tier to land meets water meets land."

Story by: Trendsideas

18 Dec, 2013

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