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Mar Vista House


The Mar Vista house is the renovation of a 1953 bungalow in west Los Angeles. Located two miles inland from the ocean, the property sits at the end of a cul-de-sac within a larger suburban masterplan.

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The client, the owner of a boutique apparel store, wanted a home with a subdued contrast to the color and patterns found in her shops. In response, we explored an “all-white house.” This seemingly simple directive proved to be conceptually challenging given the context of the existing house. While it was almost entirely white, to begin with – a trademark of similar homes that are hastily “upgraded” for appeal within the real estate market – it lacked the light, depth, detail, and comfort the owner sought.

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As such, we approached this design with great nuance and variety to attain a gradually unfolding depth within each space while maintaining a general sense of calmness. Unconsidered objects of domesticity, customary details of construction, and industry-standard uses of materials were examined and redefined to subvert their traditional representation within the home.

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The kitchen island and hood are treated like sculptural objects, curved to soften their presence within the space. Skylights are designed like furniture and clad with millwork, each fitted with an internal light fixture to provide illumination at all times. Traditional material hierarchies are inverted, with graphic marble at cabinet bases and custom concrete backsplashes above. More than a dozen “white” materials with slight tactile and tonal shifts are used throughout the house, including various marbles, fabrics, stones, concrete, glass, lacquers, powder-coats, stains, and paints. Each room is assigned a unique palette defined by use, and all surfaces are detailed flush to avoid anyone material-plane taking precedence over another.

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A new sunken seating area is inserted into the living room, evoking the conversation pits popular during the era of the original home. This new arrangement’s unusual perspective of the house from below ground-level reinforces the atypical material strategies and offers a unique vantage point of the rear garden. At the opposite end of the house, an oblique millwork tunnel is angled to provide views outdoors from the master bedroom, while also concealing a hidden closet within. Several custom furniture pieces and upholstered areas were also designed to suit the planned use of each space.

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Daylight acts as the final “material” coalescing all of these strategies, continually redefining the house with shifting layers of light, shadow, reflection, gradient, and hue as the sun moves. Architects: Part Office; Area: 1516 ft²; Year: 2019; Photographs: Naho Kubota;

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