Having raised a large family in the Philip Johnson – Wiley House in New Canaan, Connecticut, the owners requested a simple contemporary home; one that would embrace the natural landscape and temperate climate of coastal California. Among the design goals was the desire to optimize views and daylight qualities and to create a tranquil, uncluttered retreat for comfortable indoor-outdoor living while accommodating collections of contemporary art, classic modern furnishings and 50’s memorabilia.
Among the items requested for change were to save the existing trees and relocate as many existing plants as possible, create an open feeling for better traffic flow and allow more light into the house.
The original home, stark white with black aluminum windows, was surrounded by palms, ferns and other tropical plantings. The owners felt that the new home should feel as if it belonged in Santa Barbara / Montecito. Without replicating the Spanish-style architecture that is common in this area, they desired that their new home be a combination of spare contemporary and warm Mediterranean. Ornamentation was to be kept to a bare minimum, and warmth would be revealed through earthy colors, naturally stained wood, and stone.
Wall thickness was increased to allow for the new dry set walls, as planned, and custom wood windows and doors were designed and fabricated, in lieu of the existing, dark metal windows and doors – both, giving the new home a solid, substantial feel while allowing daylight to fill every room. Skylights were placed in the expanded family room and over the stairway leading directly into the new master suite. The existing fireplace in the living room, which obstructed the views of the surrounding countryside down to the Santa Barbara Harbor and Pacific Ocean was redesigned as an accent between the living and dining rooms.
Terraces of 24” square cut, Arizona flagstone were designed into areas that practically surround the home, fulfilling the owners’ desire for a casual flow from inside to outside. The new infinity edged pool was placed between the main house and guesthouse to take full advantage of ocean views and long hours of sunlight and the natural slope of the site.
In discussions on how to reach the new guesthouse from the main house, it was clearly understood that the existing California Oak and Acacia trees were not to be disturbed. Steps leading to a path were first discussed as an option. However, the owners wanted to minimize climbs up and down steps since there were already stairs leading from the first level to the second level of the main house. Ultimately, the design of a steel footbridge was thought to be the best solution: one that would not only protect the trees, but that would also be a wonderful surprise for guests. Crossing a bridge through branches instead of underneath the trees would give guests a stronger feeling of being in the natural environment. With this decision made, the guesthouse, from then on, became known as the “tree house”.
The new two-level guesthouse could not exceed 800 sf according to county codes. Situated across a dry creek bed, from the pool terrace, the guesthouse is set into a sloped tree grove as a tranquil retreat. On the top floor, with an entry from the parking area, is a loft bedroom and powder room. A spiral staircase connects the loft with the lounge area, kitchenette (with a 50’s soda fountain), and full bathroom. Again, with daylight being so important to the owners, the guesthouse is designed with many windows, allowing sunlight to fill the space. From the sleeping loft there are filtered views, through the landscape, to the ocean.
Ronald Frink Architects, Inc.
2439 W. Silver Lake Dr.
Los Angeles , CA 90039
Landscape by Bradley James Bontems Landscape Design
General Contractor: Leonard Unander Associates
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