This design acts as a 21st-century Case Study house, a prototype for exploring the potential for new custom homes within well-established Los Angeles suburbs. The home addresses a complex challenge: providing its residents with access to daylight, capturing prevailing breezes, and creating inviting exterior spaces while maintaining a high-quality interior spatial experience and a comfortable level of privacy—all on a standard-size suburban lot.
Set on a 50 x 120 lot in suburban Los Angeles, the 3,600-square-foot house has five bedrooms and three baths; the ground floor open plan comprises the kitchen, dining areas, and family/living rooms. The detached garage is 500 square feet.
The floor plan focuses on the free flow of interior to exterior space while providing the homeowners privacy from the street, alley, and adjacent properties. Construction technologies and materials were selected to support the design. A structural slab-on-grade foundation ensures a seamless indoor/outdoor connection via two oversize, exterior pocket doors on the east-west axis and one large pocket door linking the great room to the courtyard. The entire width and length of the property can be seen from a single point in the kitchen, the heart of the home.
The building’s considered relationship with the site is particularly evident in its solar orientation. By strategically placing glazed pocket doors, skylights, and windows at circulation corridors, the house does not depend on artificial lighting during the day. A two-story atrium serves as a light well for the family room, rear entry, and the master suite. Glazing was maximized in size, but the number of openings was minimized so that exterior wall insulation would have little interruption. Openings on the east and west elevations are protected with overhangs.
The home is minimal in massing and modest in material. The second level pulls back from the front yard setback, respecting the scale of the neighborhood. Earth-toned exterior plaster complements the context and is further softened by creeping fig vines. Dimensions were calculated to maximize efficiency and reduce cost and waste. Rooms were sized to eliminate the need for steel columns and beams. Ceiling heights were set at 9’-6” so that a standard 10-foot lumber length could be used with minimal waste. All exterior walls are framed in 2’ x 6’ lumber in order to maximize insulation values.
While the modern design formally addresses the challenge of building sensitively in an evolving community that contains many original homes from the tract developments of the 1930s, it also pursues a more humanist concern: Providing sanctuary.
The home’s living spaces are peaceful, comfortable, and private—qualities that aren’t always associated with modernism. One way the design achieves this is by connecting visually and physically with nature. Every space in the home has an appropriately-scaled, framed view or access to the outdoors. Defined by the family room and master suite, a two-story central atrium showcases a 30-year-old Japanese black pine, a beautiful natural sculpture. The breakfast nook opens onto the front yard, planted with a textured mix of ornamental grasses and olive trees. In contrast, the backyard is a manicured lawn.
Another way the design achieves a calming effect is by rigorously scaling and sequencing the interior spaces. This results in simultaneous experiences of openness and intimacy; both qualities are essential to creating a sanctuary. Nooks, niches, and small spaces for retreat are carefully carved out of the open floor plan. Even the master shower has a powerful spatial dichotomy: its tall, narrow enclosure is topped by a skylight, opening the closed shaft of space.