This past weekend, the Dwell on Design convention was in town, and consequently I was able to enjoy two of their home tours. Once again, my feelings could be summed up in a word: wow. This event is a fantastic way to discover the endless ways that architects and designers have created living spaces suited to individual lifestyles and all the wonderful variations of the LA environment.
The Saturday tour focused on the westside communities of Venice and Santa Monica. And while none of the homes were on the beach, they all enjoyed the mild coastal climate and flat lots. In all, we visited 6 homes in 6 hours, taking time for travel and breaks. Dwell is the best organized of the home tours I’ve done in the past year; I especially appreciate that you can visit the homes in any order and stay as much or as little time as you’d like (indeed, I was ready to move in to a couple of them).
Each house had something notable – whether it be the way it defined a space, or the types of materials it employed. Some of them stood out as my favorites, so those are the ones I’ll describe here. Photography rules were clearly posted. Most allowed photos for personal use but not publication (including blogs). A few allowed all photography. Some didn’t allow photography at all, which I think is lame. I’ll respect the wishes of those not allowing photography for publication by just including the photos I took from the street.
The Beitcher Residence was the first stop on the tour, and one of my favorite residences from both days. As was to be common in many of the structures, the inside merged seamlessly with the outside, with plenty of light and sliding walls of glass. It’s just as easy to live outside as inside and to flow between the two. We saw several homes on the tour that used an “L” shape, with a front that spanned the full width of the lot, and a back living wing that ran along one side. This allowed the home to close in a back area containing pool, small lawn or garden, and patio area. I enjoyed talking with the home’s owner, and this was something we encountered in many of the houses. In fact, many of them were owned by the architect who designed and built them.
The Reilly/Biddle House was another favorite of mine. I was struck in particular by the beautiful wooden “roof” (ceiling doesn’t do it justice) that spanned that whole open great room and even floated above it thanks to the clerestory windows. It also cleverly employed a bookcase wall to showcase treasures and separate the living area from sleeping quarters running alongside it. The very deep lot allowed for both a long house and plenty of pool and garden space in the back.
The Walnut House unfortunately didn’t allow photos, but it was special in the way that it was built to preserve and benefit from a huge stone pine in the backyard. The architect explained how he worked with the corten steel to create the distinctive colors and geometries that characterize the home.
I was impressed that all of these homes showcased building materials and methods characterized as “green”. Most had wood floors that were not only beautiful, but made of reclaimed or sustainably harvested wood. Several had no central HVAC, instead taking advantage of insulation and ventilation for temperature control. Some even harvested rainwater, and all took full advantage of natural light. I was impressed when the owner of one residence shared her electric bill = $9/month, with 2 refrigerators.
Rainbow Living just happened to be featured that day in the LA Times. The construction itself didn’t stand out to me as much as some of the design – rubber sinks and a very creative custom kitchen island, whose stools fit perfectly into the island itself when not in use. The Skywave House was a veritable funhouse, with glass rooms, multiple levels and unusual building materials. But you can only see it from the street because they also wouldn’t allow pictures.
Curbed LA has done a nice job covering several of the homes of the tour. You can find their write-up and pictures here.