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Modern beachfront house with pivot walls, light-filled atrium, large terraces

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Contemporary beach house by Dan Brunn Architecture features cantilevered terraces, light-filled atrium, reflection pool and pivot walls

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A virgin beachfront site in a sought-after location calls for something special, and the architect of this new house didn't disappoint.

Dan Brunn of Dan Brunn Architecture was commissioned to design a contemporary home that would maximize the spectacular ocean views with wrap-around terraces. The house also needed to have an elevator, and incorporate a light-controlled space to display the owners' collection of photography artworks.

Brunn says that unlike many other properties along the Venice Beach foreshore, the three-story house could not have split-level floors to make the best use of the site – the owners required level floorplates. There were also challenging height restrictions.

"All these factors meant the first floor needed to be partially below ground level, so there was a potential problem with light. To address this, we created reflection pools around the house, with a bridge across to the entry.

"The water reflects light into the house, enlivening the interior and casting rippling patterns on the ceiling. The pools also help to cool the air coming into the house. And they add a garden feel to the immediate landscape, which balances the rather urban feel of a suburb where the houses are very close together."


White plaster cantilevered terraces and a matching roof give the house a strong horizontality that is offset by a vertical element – the core of the building, containing the elevator and other services. This features a gray plaster finish, inside and out, to differentiate its role.

Pivoting walls, which animate the top floor, are another key feature of the exterior.

"This is the signature gesture of the design," says Brunn. "The walls can be rotated to adjust the amount of sunlight coming into the house, and to display or conceal artwork. The architecture plays with a sense of duality on multiple design levels, hence the name Flip Flop House."

The architect says although the house has a very minimalist design, it is animated by a play of contrasts – hard and soft, matte and reflective, shadow and light. These contrasting elements permeate every space, as does the changing pattern of light throughout the day.

To maximize light in the center of the house, the stairwell takes the form of an atrium. Light spills down from a large skylight, through the glass balustrading, to illuminate every floor.

"The floating staircase is a vital part of the design," says Brunn. "The architecture is all about choreography and the way a person walks through the space. There is the walk across the bridge to the entry, a 180° turn to walk up the stairs, and another turn to walk into the main living area, and another turn to head up to the master suite on the top floor. Each turn exposes a different slice of the view, which encourages you to explore the space."

Backpainted glass cabinets line one entire wall of the living area, bouncing light back into the room. The cabinets also act as mirrors, so the view can be enjoyed from different angles.

Stainless steel, another reflective material, wraps a key structural column that pierces all three levels. This has been seamlessly welded so it appears the entire column is made from stainless steel. The wrapping effect echoes the form of the exterior, and is repeated in the stairs, which are wrapped in terrazzo.

In keeping with the free-flowing design, the master bathroom opens to an open-air grassed courtyard beside the pivoting walls. There is also a window in the shower that looks across the central atrium and through the bedroom to frame another slice of the ocean view.

"We have provided good cross ventilation on every level," says Brunn. "There are also operable skylights that are automatically activated by thermostats. These help to siphon out hot air, so air conditioning is not required."

First published date: 18 April 2015

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Credit List

Architect Dan Brunn, AIA, Dan Brunn Architecture (Los Angeles)
Structural engineer Franceschi Engineering, Inc
Builder RJC Builders
Windows Vitrocsa
Skylights Sun Valley Skylights
Flooring Terrazzo from Hermosa Terrazzo, Inc
Paints and varnishes Dunn-Edwards in White
Lighting ConTech inset lights; Selux linear lights
Family room furniture Flexflorm Lifesteel sofa; Walter Knoll Joco side tables
Living room furniture Flexform Groundpiece sofa; B&B Italia Surface coffee table; Walter Knoll Oscar leather chair
Dining room Emmemobili UFO table and Nastro swivel chair
Blinds Aero Shade Co
Outdoor furniture Gandia Blasco lounges and table
Kitchen cabinets and countertops Glass in Artematica Vitrum by Valcucine
Sink Blanco
Faucets Dornbracht Lot
Oven, cooktop, refrigeration, dishwasher Miele
Ventilation Valcucine
Bathtub in master suite Agape Spoon
Vanity Glass in Artematica Vitrum by Valcucine
Basin Duravit
Lounge furniture beside bathroom Gandia Blasco Clip
Sink, tub, shower fixtures and accessories Dornbracht Lulu