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Making the most of a tight urban site, this expansive home was carefully designed to be a tranquil, light-filled retreat with green views from every room

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In order to make the most of a warm, sunny climate, it makes sense for a home to flow smoothly from the indoor spaces out to the garden. An open plan design invites sunlight and cool breezes into the heart of the home. Shaded outdoor living spaces make eating outdoors a pleasure even when the sun is fierce. Combine these elements with a pool in which to cool off, and you have an idyllic retreat from the pressures of daily life.

However, this sort of open plan home will often have plenty of glass to let the light in, and sliding or folding doors which open onto exterior spaces. Put this sort of design in an upscale city neighborhood, and the challenge for the architect is to give the home privacy from neighbors, while retaining that open, expansive feel.

Architect Trevor Abramson, of Abramson Teiger Architects, successfully balanced these conflicting needs in designing this 5000sq ft, five-bedroom family home, which sits on a relatively small site.

"We had quite an extensive building program for the size of the plot," says Abramson. "Consequentially, the two-story house makes full use of its site, pushing right out to the side boundaries."

However, the design is such that, from inside the home, the owners are unaware of the proximity of their neighbors.

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"In this design, light and privacy were the key considerations," says Abramson.

On the ground floor the sliding glass doors retract into pockets within the walls, so they disappear from sight, bringing the garden views inside.

The stucco exterior walls are broken up by the extensive glazing and the cedar siding on the garage, front door, and rear wall. The metal roof has deep overhangs protecting the windows.

"The fins at the side of the windows help to filter sunlight. They also block the view of the neighboring houses," says Abramson.

Abramson Teiger's design also sets the garage back from the street, giving the main form more prominence. The kitchen therefore gains a window overlooking the driveway. Standing at the sink, the owners can look out through the curved kitchen window and keep an eye on their children playing basketball.

The ceilings run to double-height in the living room and front entry. Skylights allow strong shafts of sunlight to fall into the space, particularly in the stairwell.

"The interior space is sculpted to control the natural light entering the building. In some places it is harsh and direct. In the heart of the house it filters in through a north-facing skylight. Ever-changing light moves through the house and tempers the constant view to the garden," he says.

"The living room is a very tall, rectangular space. From the office on the floor above, you can look down over it and out to the views of the hills beyond.

"The sculpted chimney form is broken up by the band of white wall that runs right around the room. The mantel, which appears to float, is actually anchored to the structural column in the corner."

The two upstairs children's bedrooms have an adjoining space which functions as both a playroom and homework room.

"These rooms have great views over the pool. In fact, every one of the main living spaces looks out to either the garden, pool, or the hills," says Abramson. This was achieved by bending the floor plan to orient each room towards the views – the curved wall running through the kitchen is evidence of this.

Outdoors, a shaded terrace is tucked under the overhang of the upper level, in front of a feature wall of cedar siding. Stepping stones lead from this terrace directly to the pool.

Much of Abramson Teiger's work aims to address the preference for an outdoor lifestyle in this warm, sunny region. Abramson says this has become very much a part of the practice's style.

"For us, a home is a retreat from the grind of daily life. It should be architecturally interesting, but most of all, peaceful."

First published date: 02 February 2007

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Credit List

Architect Trevor Abramson AIA, NCARB and Douglas Teiger AIA, NCARB, Abramson Teiger Architects (Culver City, CA)
Builder Triumph Construction Structural
Engineer Sigma Design Structural Engineers
Siding La Habra Stucco; Cedar Siding
Roofing Torch-applied modified bitumen
Doors and windows Fleetwood Sliding Doors; Metal Window Corp; TM Cobb wood windows
Flooring Maple
Paint Dunn-Edwards; Ralph Lauren
Lighting Halo
Heating Bryant split system
Blinds Mecha Shade
Kitchen designer Abramson Teiger Architects
Kitchen manufacturer Triumph Construction
Kitchen sinks Elkay
Kitchen faucets KWC
Countertops CaesarStone in Concrete color
Backsplash 2x2 Daltile
Oven and cooktop Bosch
Microwave Sharp
Refrigeration KitchenAid
Dishwasher Whirlpool