The owners’ broad interests are reflected and celebrated in the eclectic interior furnishings of this house. The actor/director couple are design enthusiasts and have fused the two worlds of old and new with industrial chic and old-world interiors. This impressive achievement looks to the tradition of medieval Irish castle and incorporates it into a contemporary California lifestyle. It’s a new and different nod to Case Study Houses and stands as a testament to further exploration of the ideological image of intersecting spatial realms and portrays a contemporary commanding presence atop the Hollywood Hills.
This is the second project that design architect Kirsten Becker from Seattle-based Mutuus Studio has completed for these clients. Becker was mentored by Tom Kundig at Olson Kundig. The first project she designed for them was a loft apartment in the Tribeca neighbourhood of New York City.
This bespoke home, nestled and perched atop a hill among oak trees, was born from a desire for highly considered design within a relatively modest footprint. In light of the environment and the urge to simplify, the clients yearned for a smaller footprint for their family residence, much like their New York City penthouse loft. Inset on a 45 percent slope, the parcel posed a challenge for the design team.
Taking cues from the clients’ Irish travels and many visits to great castles of Europe, one enters from the top of the site across a wood and steel bridge spanning a secret garden through a monumental bronze door. Always covered, the secret garden feels like a protective fortress and connects shafts of light into the guest bath through a skylight. Through the threshold and down the staircase, guests have the sense they’ve arrived in a great hall and are welcomed into this primary living space.
The kitchen area uses blackened steel and walnut veneered cabinets with brass accents. The dining area’s caramel leather chairs and a Finn Juhl dining table anchor the dark, circular central hearth that acts as a subtle dividing element between the kitchen and living area. The living area is filled with eclectic artefacts featuring African masks, a Willy Daro bronze table and a cast from a childhood bone break displayed as a relic.
Light pours into the space through the black steel Brombal windows. The far wall of the living area is all glass and faces south to take advantage of a stirring panorama of Los Angeles. One of the most notable features of the living space is a heavy metal gear-and-chain pivoting window, not only an opulent gesture that complements the interior objects but also an emphasis on the idea of ever changing, interweaving spaces.
A pivoting window opens to the east terrace and a secondary dining room, allowing the visitor to zigzag down to the pool and lower guest rooms. The seamless flow that the house embraces speaks to our instincts that are encouraged when moving from one space to the next; thanks to the designer’s background in dance it’s a showcase of experiential choreography that rejects the traditional sequence of spaces.
The material palette was kept elemental (another nod to the castle). Floors and stair treads are antique fumed oak, walls are cast-in-place concrete or clad in stained cedar siding, as well as accents of blackened steel and copper. The design is efficient yet supports a luxurious California lifestyle.
The house indulges with a double staircase, separating the space sequence into private and public quarters. The public quarters continue down to the media room. Private spaces are intentionally nestled back into the mountain, cozy and anchored to reassure a level of safety and nurture that marks the end of the performance started at the bridge.
project designer: Kristen Becker of Mutuus Studio (mentored by Tom Kundig at Olson Kundig)
project team: Renee Boone, CJ Christensen
interior Design: Kristen Becker, Mia Sara, Jerry Sarapochiello
photography by Kevin Scott