This year’s Dwell on Design event offered another great opportunity for designers, architects, modernism fans, and the general public to see new products, hear many good lectures, and tour innovative homes around Los Angeles.
Speaking events and product exhibitions were held at the Los Angeles Convention Center’s West Hall. I visited on Saturday, June 22. As expected there were lots of cool products on display. For anyone involved in a home remodel project, the West Hall was a good place to be last weekend. My favorite product booth was Koncept who design and manufacture LED lighting products. I’ve got my eye on their ‘mr. n’ light scheduled to go on sale this year.
With the 2013 conference Dwell offered attendees the opportunity to sign up for free 30 minute consultations with either a professional architect, interior designer, or landscape architect. Sign up for the consultations was first come, first served. I chose to speak with a landscape architect to get some fresh ideas for my backyard space. I met with Tom Stout of Stout Design Build. It was fun batting around ideas with Tom. I learned some things about plant choices for my climate and sun exposure, and also using existing soil resources to reconfigure a garden space. My only critique regarding the consultations is that it was difficult to locate where they were taking place (hidden in a spot behind a prefab house as it turned out). I had to ask three people to finally figure it out. If Dwell features consultations for the 2014 conference, a mention in the program brochure and some big arrows pointing the way to the consultations location would be helpful.
The following are photo highlights from my day at the Dwell exhibition.
As I was leaving the exhibit hall I stopped for a look at some student architecture projects on display nearby. One that caught my attention was the fluxHome by Team USC. This innovative home design is being entered into the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon. I neglected to take photos of this project, but please click here for information.
The Dwell Home Tours was my primary reason for attending this year’s event, and it didn’t disappoint. I took in the Sunday, June 23 L.A. Canyons + Valley tour, which consisted of five outstanding homes. The tour began at the Blu Dot furniture store on Melrose to obtain tour maps. Modernist fans started lining up early. The tour was self guided, so I got into the car and drove to the first house near Hollywood.
House with Five Corners, Los Angeles
Constructed in 2013. Escher GuneWardena, Architects.
This house was the most recently completed of the tour. Landscaping is still being installed, and I think it will help to soften some of the austerity of the exterior. I was impressed with the architects’ spatial and materials solutions to a residential structure that had to fit on a 45 degree lot. The top level features a dramatic view seen through glazing that elegantly wraps around the space. No photos were allowed inside, but I can tell you that a rich mix of smooth and rough concrete along with oiled plywoods created a minimal, but elegant interior space. The architects were on hand to answer everyone’s questions. I spoke with principal Frank Escher and one of his associates, both of whom were friendly and accomodating with their time and information. The only difficulty in visiting the house was the parking situation. I had to park down on Sunset Boulevard and walk up the steep Larrabee Street to reach the house. This became a theme of the day as dozens of home tour attendees simultaneously migrated from house to house up narrow canyon streets. I soon gave up on the idea of parking anywhere near the houses and took to walking to each residence from down the street.
Oak Pass Guest House, Beverly Hills
Constructed in 2012. Walter Workshop Design Build, Architects.
I overheard many tour attendees commenting that this house was their favorite. Looking at the photos of this house and thinking about it again I can see why. The architects have produced a delightful, well executed contemporary space that repurposes part of an existing structure and thoughtfully adds to it. The use of materials, lighting fixtures and color is well considered. The siting is dramatic with gorgeous tree views from every window. It’s a tranquil setting, but slightly remote. The architect related to me that the most challenging part of the project was the logistics of getting materials to the site. Apparently, smaller trucks had to be employed to get up and down the narrow roads. Hard to believe, at 2,600 sq. ft., that this beautiful structure will merely be someone’s guest house. As a great appreciator of modern architecture and design I’m also frustrated by the fact that a lot of it is only accessible to wealthy clientele. Why aren’t there more developers like Joseph Eichler, who embrace modern design for the masses? That’s a whole other topic however. Perhaps for another blog post…
Floegel-Shetty Residence, Beverly Hills
Constructed in 2003. Finn Kappe, Architect.
This multileveled house features a dramatic double height living space with peaceful canyon views. The generously sized lot accommodates a large lawn on one side of the house and a lap pool on the other side, accessible directly from a home office space. How great to be able to take breaks during the work week to step out of the office for a dip in the pool! The interior is elegantly spartan, which helps to showcase a wonderful art collection. The owner was onhand to discuss the project. I found the exterior to be a bit institutional in character—so massive from some perspectives as to be beyond comfortable human scale for a residence. Overall, I think it’s a successful project where the architect and owner took some chances and pushed the design to achieve some interesting results.
Mendel Residence, Sherman Oaks
Constructed in 2011. Scrafano Architects & Guss Duffy Architect.
This is a really nice house. There were strict no photography rules (the home owner is a bass player for a popular rock band) so unfortunately I can’t show you the house in this blog post. I did speak with architect Guss Duffy and he related that the tricky part of the project was dealing with a landslide that occurred prior to building (this was a major remodel project of an existing structure). A large retaining wall did the trick to shore up the backyard space and also provide a long, (I’d say 300 feet wide) inviting garden space that accomodates grassy areas, seating with fire pit, a small decorative orchard and a swimming pool. I was impressed by the way the architects deftly unified the exterior and interior spaces through color and material.
Strimling House, Encino
Constructed in 1964. Ray Kappe, FAIA.
This classic modern house was the only landmark mid-century house of the tour. Walking through the space was like taking a trip back in time, with its mostly true to original details and mid-century modern furnishings. The house is multileveled with two large decks hanging out the back, looking over a sloped garden setting. I was amazed, standing next to the pool, as to how much unused yard space was left over. The realtor told me the property is over half an acre. It was a nice house to visit last on the tour. I would be interested to see how a talented comtemporary interior designer would reimagine the space with a sensitive remodel—leaving Ray Kappe’s terrific design intact, but updating some of the materials choices, the color palette and definitely the furnishings to bring the space elegantly into the twenty-first century.
It was an inspiring day of house touring that left me enthusiastic about my interest in modern architecture and design. At the same time, thinking about all of the terrific residential spaces I viewed on the tour, I’m struck by the idea that those homes are financially out of reach for most people. I believe everybody deserves to live in a well designed space. I’m not talking about a 5,000 sq. ft. custom designed home with a pool and stunning canyon views, but simply a space thoughtfully conceived and executed for today’s needs, whether a small single family home, a condo or an apartment. There’s so much poor residential development being produced at the moment. It would be nice to see more of the contemporary design ideas on display at the Dwell Home Tours and exhibition trickle down to the modest housing that most of us inhabit.