Story at a glance:
- Spread out across a half-acre lot, House in Los Angeles 1 is a residential complex made up of a house, guest house, artist studio, and exhibition space.
- Designed by The Los Angeles Design Group, the project’s makeshift qualities give the artist couple living there a lot of leeway to transform it as desired.
- Sustainability features like the rainwater collection system were made to fit aesthetically within the design.
Working from home means something different for everyone, and it can definitely be hard to find the right work-life balance. But for this painter and photographer couple, they’re rarely ever out of office—and that’s the way they like it.
“It’s not a single house with a unified program, meant to contain a sleeping family at night, who commute off to work and school lives in the morning. It’s a collection of buildings that integrates work, living, and communal activities around the livelihoods of two artists,” say Benjamin Freyinger, cofounder of LADG.
The complex lies in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood and is spread out across a half-acre hilltop lot, giving plenty of space for not only the clients but also for guests to move freely and openly. The project redefines the tight-knit, front-facing quarters that Los Angeles is typically known for.
The inspiration for the freestanding walls that help to connect the structures come from the clients’ existing home, designed by early LA architect Cliff May, who is well known for ranch-style, mid-century modern homes.
Sustainability-wise, Freyinger and Holder said the home’s green features were tailored to fit aesthetically within the rest of the design. For example, the rainwater collection systems are buried and recessed in the ground, and the insulation uses seam tape to keep water out, with translucent facing to keep it hidden.
The compound’s design also provides shade at almost every area on sight. “By sliding apart the walls and roofs we were able to deliver eves, overhangs, and shaded niches in ways that make sense for adjacent programs,” says Andrew Holder, cofounder of LADG. “The deeply shaded overhang between the photo darkroom and painting studio, for instance, both gives a shaded area for sitting outside and a sun screen so that the large sliding glass partition is never hit with direct light.”
Holder says there’s an ad hoc quality to the compound. “This is not to say it’s unfinished or rough, but that the assemblies of parts look flexible. It’s easy to imagine adding or rearranging those parts—they can take lots of configurations without losing coherence. We think that’s a sophisticated form of resilience and tolerant open-endedness, already built into the neighborhood.”
The interior reflects those makeshift qualities, which make it a perfect place to not only make but also show art. Exposed ceiling beams and wall studs, unfinished plywood panels, and white walls make it easy for the client to transform the room as needed. Beyond interior space, the walls extend and are filled with storage and utilities, such as bathrooms and outdoor showers.
From the outside, the metal roof, poured-in-place concrete for the bases of the compound, and outside walls are smooth stucco textured giving it a semi-unfinished, outdoorsy look. This looser approach even expands to the landscape, where events and art openings can be held in between the carport and studio.
“A very specific kind of living happened in the suburbs, meant for a very specific profile of a person,” Freyinger says. “Our project defies and reorganizes some of the architectural tropes associated with LA suburbia.”
Project name: House in Los Angeles 1
Location: Los Angeles, California
Size: 28,000 square feet
Architect: Los Angeles Design Group
Design Principal: Andrew Holder and Claus Benjamin Freyinger
Contractor: T.R. Wurster Construction Company Inc.