This project’s strong handling of architecture’s universals—space, proportion, and light—earned uniform praise from the jury. “This is the one I want to live in,” a judge said.
Almost unreadable from the street, Woods + Dangaran’s ethereal house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood is a study in journey and destination, light and shadow, warmth and reserve. These contrasts represent a mind meld of the architects, known for modernist buildings imbued with warm natural materials, and their clients, who were inspired by Mexican floor plans. Presenting a solid street face broken only by a swath of slim cedar louvers, the L-shaped ensemble is organized around an atrium and glass-enclosed corridors that blur the edges of enclosure. “They saw a property they liked in Mexico and were drawn to the idea of spaces that are connected physically and visually through unconditioned breezeways,” says Woods + Dangaran partner Brett Woods.
The double lot was unusual for Los Angeles, Brett says, and its unique width presented the opportunity to spread out the elevation, exploring a horizontal relationship to the land. A wish for privacy and security led to the tall plaster wall that acts as a gateway in front of the house. Placing it outside the street setback freed the wall from local height restrictions. Rising about 8 feet, it helps to minimize the house’s scale by creating a sense of depth, as though the western red cedar‑clad second story is floating. “The bottom portion is the plaster that’s tonal, which starts to play off the lighter gray patinaed cedar,” Brett says. “We look at materials that will naturally weather and use them as an expression of the architecture. This house isn’t far from the ocean; an accelerator gives the cedar a first-generation patina, and the weather will do what it does.”
This tonal materiality supports a design concept that reveals the natural world through unexpected spatial moves. “We refer to the front as the non-elevation, a singular mass that is confident in its approach and detailing, but when you pass through that motor gate or even the pedestrian gate, the house expands,” Brett says. Visitors enter along the side of the house, where the front door opens to a double-height atrium framing an outdoor view of a specimen gingko tree. No less enticing, the family entrance is through an open breezeway that travels from the louvered garage—more like an elevated carport—and alongside the gingko before arriving at the informal atrium entrance opposite the front door. Inside, smooth plaster walls and a floating staircase of cantilevered oak planks remove all visual noise. Natural light filtered through the second-story louvers washes down through the atrium, creating a feeling of decompression. “That stair hall is pretty magical,” a judge commented. “It’s alluding to Barragán a little bit with that window at the top.”
“We wanted that space to feel very simple and peaceful,” Brett says. The base of the L-shaped staircase sits on a long plinth that provides seating and cubbies for shoe storage. Indeed, the firm’s interiors department worked closely with the building designers. Partnering with Bocci, the team designed a diaphanous atrium chandelier meant to emulate the leaves of the ginkgo just outside the atrium. “There’s a relationship between the delicate nature of the gingko leaves and each one of the hanging light shades,” Brett says. “There’s a conversation you can feel.”
That indoor-outdoor dynamic is fully expressed in the central great room, where massive sliding-glass pocket doors open the kitchen, dining area, and living room to the pool garden on one side and a plein-air dining patio on the other. Adjacent to the great room, a cozy family room with a custom-designed sofa and circular rug also opens fully to the pool terrace. In both spaces, billowing, floor-length curtains soften the movable glass walls and concrete flooring, which is also the structural slab. Door and window systems are clear anodized aluminum, and the cabinetry and second-story flooring are white oak.
Continuing that indelible link between the design details and the capital “A” of the architecture, sumptuous materials appear in the baths to counterpoint the house’s simple geometric forms. The primary bath’s vanity top and shower are a swirl of marble that’s been honed to “knock back some of the graphic nature,” Brett says. “The clients fell in love with it while walking through a stone yard. Our palettes are typically very controlled and muted, which gives us opportunities for places like the vanity or shower to have an expression if the clients desire.” A white oak wall serves as a headboard in the primary bedroom; behind it is a closet and a bathroom fitted with pocket doors that can close it off.
The garden, developed with landscape architect Chris Sosa, also combines the organic and precise, with low ornamental grasses, gravel, and boulders set around the gingko tree, and drifts of weeping Mexican bamboo softening low walls and stairs. “The project creates these amazing outdoor spaces,” a judge said. “There’s a really nice quietness to it.
I think it’s gorgeous.”
2022 RDAA Project of the Year
Woods + Dangaran
Architect/interior designer: Woods + Dangaran, Los Angeles
Builder: Mallis Workshop, Los Angeles
Chris Sosa Landscape Architecture, Los Angeles
Civil and Structural
Engineer: Labib Funk +
Associates, Los Angeles
Pool Consultant: Pool
Engineering, Los Angeles
Lighting Design: Woods + Dangaran
Casework: Woods + Dangaran + Shinnoki
Project size: 6,000 square feet
Site size: 0.36 acre
Construction Cost: Withheld
Photography: Joe Fletcher
Countertops: TriStone, Stoneland, Stone Mart, Caesarstone
Faucets: Dornbracht, California Faucets
Icemaker/Wine Refrigerator: Sub-Zero
Lighting Control: Lutron
Sinks: Blanco, Kohler
Tile: Daltile, Stone Mart
Tub: Lacava, Zuma Collection
Windows/Doors: Western Window Systems