With updated architecture to a true European French Villa style, Sunset Plaza Residence has been designed by Smith Firestone Associates, situated high above Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. The designers revamped the exterior facade, taking the architecture from an odd muddle of classical French and retro 1970′s to a true European French Villa style. They gave the interior an edge of glamor and French flair. Entering through the dramatic, two-story glossy black double doors, the interior space is Hollywood Regency with a classic French flair. Dark wood floors juxtaposed against stark white paneled walls are offset by a transitional color palette of mink brown, classy black, pale dove gray, dusty purples and hints of yellow. The décor is an eclectic mix of romantic Rococo-inspired pieces, 19th Century French Empire chandeliers, contemporary abstract art, quirky wallcoverings, and of course, a few Bond-inspired accents–perfect for the client who is heir to the James Bond empire!
Photos: Meghan Beierle-O’Brien
Black Desert House has been designed by Oller & Pejic Architecture, situated in Yucca Valley, which is located near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles in the high desert near the Joshua Tree National Park. Upon first meeting the clients, the architects had found that they shared a common aesthetic and process and after seeing the property. They knew the project was like nothing else they had ever done, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Beyond the technical and regulatory challenges of building on the site- several previous owners had tried and given up– there was the challenge of how to build appropriately on such a sublime and pristine site. It is akin to building a house in a natural cathedral.
Here is a description of the project from the architects: Our client had given us a brief but compelling instruction at the start of the process- to build a house like a shadow. This had a very specific relevance to the desert area where the sunlight is often so bright that the eye’s only resting place is the shadows.
Unfortunately, the site had been graded in the 1960′s when the area was first subdivided for development. A small flat pad had been created by flattening several rock outcroppings and filing in a saddle between the outcroppings. To try to reverse this scar would have been cost prohibitive and ultimately impossible. It would be a further challenge to try to address this in the design of the new house. The house would be located on a precipice with almost 360 degree views to the horizon and a large boulder blocking views back to the road.
A long process of research began with the clients showing us images of houses they found intriguing- mostly contemporary houses that showed a more aggressive formal and spatial language than the mid-century modern homes that have become the de-facto style of the desert southwest.
We looked back at precedents for how architects have dealt with houses located in similar topography and found that generally they either sought to integrate the built work into the landscape, as in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and later Rudolf Shindler or to hold the architecture aloof from the landscape as in the European modernist tradition of Mies van der Rohe. While on a completely virgin site, the lightly treading minimalist approach would be preferred, here we decided that the Western American tradition of Land Art would serve as a better starting point, marrying the two tendencies in a tense relationship with the house clawing the ground for purchase while maintaining its otherness.
The house would replace the missing mountain that was scraped away, but not as a mountain, but a shadow or negative of the rock; what was found once the rock was removed, a hard glinting obsidian shard.
Concept in place, we began fleshing out the spaces and movement through the house. We wanted the experience of navigating the house to remind one of traversing the site outside. The rooms are arranged in a linear sequence from living room to bedrooms with the kitchen and dining in the middle, all wrapping around a inner courtyard which adds a crucial intermediate space in the entry sequence and a protected exterior space in the harsh climate.
The living room was summed up succinctly by the homeowner as a chic sleeping bag. The space, recessed into the hillside with a solid earthen wall to lean your back against as you survey the horizon is a literal campsite which finds its precedent in the native cliff dwellings of the Southwest.
The dark color of the house interior adds to the primordial cave-like feeling. During the day, the interior of the house recedes and the views are more pronounced. At night the house completely dematerializes and the muted lighting and stars outside blend to form an infinite backdrop for contemplation.
The project would never have come about without the continued efforts of the entire team. The design was a collaborative effort between Marc and Michele and the architects. The patience and dedication of the builder, Avian Rogers and her subcontractors was crucial to the success of the project. Everyone who worked on the project knew it was something out of the ordinary and put forth incredible effort to see it completed.
Marin County Residence is a very beautiful contemporary property that has been designed by Chicago-based firm Dirk Denison Architects in San Francisco, California. This accessible house is designed on one level to provide a barrier-free environment and to capitalize on the potential for an internalized landscape. The plan is based upon an irregular grid, which informs all elements of its composition. Each programmatic function is contained within an individual building to respond to its specific needs. This enables each space to form a distinct relationship with its own courtyard or garden.
The ceiling plane is fractured and folded along a diagonal pattern, exploring the interplay of light in unique ways.
These spatial volumes are bound together by an enclosing perimeter wall, which creates a single form out of a village of buildings and landscapes. The irregular pattern of openings in this simple wall hints at the home’s underlying geometry and expresses the various functions contained within.
Photos: Joshua McHugh
Carmel Residence is an incredible modern home design completed in 2008 by Dirk Denison Architects, situated in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. The house is nestled on a dense site facing Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The clients were keen to be fully cognizant of this amazing setting in all areas of the home. As such the house was conceived as a central room comprised of the courtyard, living room, and bedroom, bordered by niche spaces for the kitchen, breakfast nook, office and master bath. Fully folding doors/walls adjacent to the courtyard from the living room and bedroom literally open the full space up, and the rhythmic edge of vertical screen elements (solid mahogany and steel) create a loose border that stretches and compresses along its lengths.
Viewed at an angle, the screen reads opaque, but viewed closely or straight through, the screen is visibly porous allowing both light and air to travel through and across the central space. All other rooms on the main floor abut this border screen, creating a reference of place throughout the house, and providing a dynamic reading of visual connections as one moves through the space. This central heart of the house is protected from strong seawater winds of the ocean by a glass roof, designed to allow for clear views upward and to maintain a warm center space.
The steel columns that anchor the steel cable and strut trusses are integrated into the vertical wood screen – matching the changing rhythm and yet independently identified by a deep charcoal color. When a sweeping breeze is needed, the large sliding windows between the office and the courtyard are easily opened to allow full cross-ventilation. The house lives and breathes through the courtyard, and our clients live fully in this “large” room, even soaking in the Japanese Ofuro installed beneath the glass roof to watch the evening sky.
The second floor is accessed by an exterior cantilever stair, which is structurally and materially integrated into the vertical screen system. Atop the house is a small second floor enclosure between two porches with dramatic views. This space is primarily used as a meditation room – and the large scooped skylight draws attention towards the changing blue of the sky and movement of the stars. Hidden below the inset Tatami floor is a guest mattress, ready to be revealed for guests to sleep among the cypress treetops.
Photos: David Matheson
The Hollywood Hybrid home has been designed by Marmol Radziner, located in the Hollywood Hills above Runyon Canyon, California. Set into a sharply down-sloping site, the home required substantial foundation work, including the construction of a large retaining wall. The resulting home combines prefab with site built construction. The ground floor is comprised of two large rooms built into the foundation while the two stories above are entirely prefab.
A long pool runs parallel to the house, overlooking Runyon Canyon. Two levels of decks and large sliding glass doors make the views accessible from every level of the home. The residence is targeted for LEED gold certification.
Responsible materials are used throughout, from the insulated glass to the denim jean insulation. Solar panels generate electricity and can feed excess power back into the grid. Decks, large sliding glass doors, and well-placed shading devices allow for cooling cross ventilation and seamless indoor-outdoor living.
Photos: Courtesy of Marmol Radziner
The Madison House is located on a West facing knoll overlooking a dramatic mountain range at the eastern end of the Coachella Valley in La Quinta, California, designed by XTEN Architecture. The area is known for its extreme summer heat and severe winds. During the winter months however the area is paradise – clear, sunny and temperate days, with cooler nights perfect for the indoor outdoor modern lifestyle made famous in photographs by Julius Shulman.
The projecting and sheltering roof planes of the house are designed to relate to the horizontality of the desert floor, connecting the house directly to its natural surroundings. The house is organized around two main concepts: to use the mass and materials of the house to shelter the inhabitants from extreme desert conditions; and conversely, to open the house to the mountain views and clear desert light.
The house is organized as two volumes around a central courtyard, bridged by a series of large cantilevered roof planes on two stories. To the South, the solid mass creates a thermal buffer to the massive solar heat gain. This volume contains the garage, offices and service spaces, culminating in a media room with a covered terrace facing the mountains. To the North, a long rectangular solid mass containing guest bedrooms and two story fireplace block create a windbreak to Northern winds that can reach 100mph.
These closed volumes in the North-South direction are counteracted by layers of transparency in the East-West direction. Deep cantilevered overhangs protect these large openings from the sun and allow them to open completely when weather allows.
Projecting horizontal roof planes rest on two long fieldstone walls that frame, in succession: patterned metal entry pivot doors, a courtyard and reflecting pool, glass entry pivot doors, a large cross-axial living/dining/ open kitchen area, a sixty foot wall of sliding glass panels, a covered outdoor terrace, and outdoor swimming/ entertaining area.
Environmentally, the house is designed with Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) walls that create super insulated R60 walls. The thick stone and concrete walls, deep glazing recesses and large cantilevered overhangs shelter the house from the sun.
Concurrently, the house opens in every direction to passively cool the interior spaces. The courtyard reflecting pool also serves as an evaporative cooling system for the ground floor areas opening onto the courtyard. High performance glass, high efficiency mechanical systems and fixtures further reduce the energy profile of the house.
Like the desert climate itself, the house is a study in dualities. Large open and fluid spaces are framed by massive solid and fixed elements. Light white terrazzo floors and countertops and bounded by dark rift oak wood cabinetry. Rough stone walls frame openings of delicate metal and glass doors.
Materials continue from interior to exterior and back again, furthering the connection between inside and outside spaces. From inside the house panoramic views open dramatically from every room, and nature becomes an integral part of the house.
Santiago Mid-Century Remodel is a contemporary two story home designed by Christiano Homes, Inc., located in Dover Shores, a unique water front community in Newport Beach, California. The open living room features a wall of glass windows and doors that open onto the backyard deck and pool. The living room blends into the bar featuring a large walnut wood wall to add interest, texture and warmth. The home also features polished concrete floors throughout the bottom level as well as dark white oak floors on the upper level.
The gorgeous entry to the house features a large wood commercial style front door, polished concrete floors and a barn door separating the master suite.
The dining room overlooks the backyard pool and features a wall of windows and large wood floating shelf. The pre-existing wall was removed and replaced with glass to open up the staircase.
The bar area features a walnut wood wall, Caesarstone countertops, polished concrete floors and floating shelves.
The beautiful kitchen features a large island, stainless steel appliances and backsplash, Caesarstone and marble countertops, wood cabinets, polished concrete floors and a large venting skylight.
The large master bathroom features a modern freestanding bathtub, dual sinks, marble countertops and tile, floating wood vanity and glass shower with ceiling mounted rain style shower head.
The guest bathroom features a floating wood vanity with Caesarstone countertop and walk in shower.
Photos: Courtesy of Christiano Homes, Inc.
Wallace Ridge is a luxurious home with spectacular views designed by Whipple Russell Architects, situated in the Trousdale Estates area of Beverly Hills, California. This project began with former clients’ wish to move back closer to the city of Beverly Hills. At the outset the property was in disrepair; had a choppy floor plan, and gabled roofs that did not fit the client’s vision of a modern home. The goal, of course, was to maximize the views while creating fluid well-lit spaces that would both serve and reflect the lives of the inhabitants. Marc saw a way to stay within the Trousdale Estates’ single story 14 foot height restriction and still provide spaciousness and a spectacular view. To create a vantage point for the best view, a roof terrace was built atop the master suite, accessible from the pool area.
The entire core of the house was redesigned to feature an open plan, high ceilings and a sleek flat roof. The front door, flanked by large glass panels, opens to a wide entry and provides an open sight line across the living area, though 12ft glass walls and 8ft glass sliding pocket doors, to the patio and pool. Rooms are minimally defined using tall panels, custom stained in a rich coffee bean brown that contrast with the light walls. The warm modernism the clients wanted, and a home suited for entertaining, was achieved with a harmonious use of materials allowing kitchen, dining, entertaining and living room spaces to flow easily into one another.
In the living area a large screen television and fireplace are recessed into wall-sized expanse of Portico Slate tile by SOLI. In the kitchen, the island and countertops are Caesarstone in Lagos Blue and cabinets have an acrylic lacquered finish.
Large glass pocket doors open to the outside from both kitchen and living areas, where there is a patio bar, conversation areas and a tabletop fireplace all encircling the pool.
As there is a musician in the family, the clients wanted to find space for a full music studio; Marc found it by digging down and locating the studio beneath the motor court. It includes a separate control room, sound booth for vocal recording, and tracking room, a soundproofed oasis for creation.
The master suite also opens to the pool though large sliding glass panels. The master wing offers a library/sitting room, and a home theater. Next to the bedroom, the master bath continues the use of brown with the tile in the master shower – a basket weave pattern from SOLI. Adjacent is a roomy closet/dressing area.
To create a vantage point for the best view, a roof terrace was built atop the master suite, accessible from the pool area. Pool tile is by Ann Sacks, “ Promenade” in Eucalyptus and Heron.
The master terrace provides space for entertaining, sunbathing, a game of table tennis, and a view all the way to the Pacific.
Photos: Courtesy of Whipple Russell Architects
Rockledge Residence is is a modern beach house perched atop the vertical face of a rocky, coastal promontory in Laguna Beach, California, designed by Horst Architects together with interior design firm Aria Design. This residence responds directly to the owner’s brief for a relaxed family beach house where they could engage family and friends, while also enjoying the views and natural surroundings of the site. The mild coastal climate also created the opportunity for the seamless integrate of interior and exterior space.
The design solution consists of a main residence and a detached guest house organized around a series of connected courtyards. Native, drought tolerant vegetation forms the connective tissue of the various exterior spaces. Sliding, concealed pocket doors and the continuity of materials both inside and out, help to dissolve the boundary between interior and exterior space.
Materiality and formal choices were informed by a desire to root the structure into the site. Indoor and outdoor living is orchestrated by balancing views with privacy, communal space with intimacy. Rockledge is a place of meditation where one can contemplate the ocean and sky.
Hilltop Retreat is a stunning Mediterranean style home designed by high-end interior design firm Tucker & Marks, situated high on a ridge above the central coast in Tehama County, California. The home features a flowing series of vaulted interior spaces and broad exterior terraces that capture both the morning and evening sun. The design firm took a playful approach t0 finishes and textiles by mixing textured indigenous stone, hand-hewn and sandblasted woods, antiques, new pieces, and fabrics – linen prints, cushy chenilles, and soft cottons – that had both a modern and casual feel.
On the floor is a custom wool and mohair area rug was manufactured by Sloan Miyasato. The coffee table base was purchased from Formations, and the limestone inset top is from Fox Marble. The painting is by Paul Balmer, the title is “Summer Abstracted”.
The side table next to the club chair is made from a section of an old, reclaimed ironwood tree, purchased from JRM International. The console table below the painting is a French 19th century elm desk, purchased from Ralf’s Antiques. The beautiful painting is called “Red Smoke” by Jennifer Brook-Kothlow. If the wall color appeals to you, try Benjamin Moore #957 Papaya.
The lantern above is a Large Cubic Lantern with three lights in an aged bronze finish, from Formations.
The kitchen island bar stools are three “Laced Rawhide Back Bar Stool” in a tobacco finish, purchased from The McGuire Company. The kitchen countertops are a “Tiberius Gold” stone countertop, while the cabinets were custom-built and painted in Benjamin Moore OC-103 Antique Yellow. On the ceiling you will notice a skylight with 2 pendant lights (mounted to skylight frame) in a steel-dark patina finish with a rectangular linen shade in a cream color (from Holly Hunt). The paint finish is hand-troweled plaster walls with a custom-mixed warm straw color. This floor is made from oak wooden planks with a clear stain.
These rattan dining chairs are from McGuire. The hand-troweled plaster walls have a custom-mixed warm straw color, inspired by the colors of the indigenous stone and earth of the central california coast area. The floor is made of wooden oak planks.
The ten side chairs with scrolled legs and antique brass nailhead along the base of the seat, are upholstered in a saddle colored leather, purchased from A. Rudin Furniture (the item # is SC 560, the finish is Chestnut #35, with antique brass nailheads). The cast stone bases of this dining table are from Michael Taylor Designs. The lantern is an iron Giacometti style four-light lantern with leaves, an owl, and a bird in a bronze finish was purchased from Carole Gratale. The wall finish is comprised of stone indigenous to the California location of this house.
The light fixture above the dining table is a Giacometti-style lantern, purchased from Carol Gratale. The metal-framed windows and doors were custom-designed and custom-manufactured for this project.
The window treatments are made with a leopard print linen from Raoul Textiles at De Sousa Hughes, called “Leopard” in the Olivine colorway. The Roman Shades, in a pale raffia-like material, are from Conrad.
The plantation shutter doors were custom-manufactured for this project.
The flooring material is Sweetwater Cherokee stone. The ceiling light fixture is a Large Cubic Lantern with three lights in an aged bronze finish, from Formations. The ceiling wood is oak with just a clear finish.
Photos: Matthew Millman