For architect Trevor Abramson and designer Audrey Alberts, a mutual admiration of each other’s skills brought an especially insightful collaboration to the creation of a couple’s Los Angeles house. “Trevor is a very thoughtful architect, and our two offices were very comfortable with each other, “Albert says. “It made a big difference with how we all worked together.” That Abramson and his partner, Douglas Teiger, had also worked with the homeowners before added another element of trust. “They are no-ego people who love architecture, art and design,” shares Abramson.
Already familiar with his clients’ penchant for contemporary design, Abramson had to reconcile their aesthetic desires with a very particular set of restrictions—both philosophical and physical. To begin with, the homeowners association specified just 10 percent of the roofline could be flat, “but the owners wanted modern architecture,” the architect, who worked with project architect David Pascu on the job, says with a laugh. “We had to create a house that had modern sensibilities and elements but still met local requirements.”
Gently pitching the roof and finishing it with slate for a crisp edge and sharp corners that gave it a modern bent addressed both issues. It also helped ease the transition to more contemporary exterior materials— smooth-troweled white stucco; dark bronze metal-clad windows, doors, lintels and columns; walnut bands and Wisconsin limestone.
Where to site the house brought its own set of challenges. “It was a nice-size property, but it was narrow compared to its depth,” Abramson recalls. “Our goal was to create a motor court on the entry side while maintaining the view overlooking the golf course and having room for a garden and infinity pool—all without filling the entire lot. It was a delicate balance.”
To execute the house’s clean, precise lines, builders Andrew Jagoda and his partner, Isaac Zachary, came aboard. “Modern homes are our specialty, and they require very specific patience,” says Jagoda, who was on the site every day. “You can’t hide mistakes. Attention to details, like where the lines meet, creates a beautiful experience.”
The experience begins with just the touch of a hand on the grand front door—measuring nearly 12 by 8 feet—that pivots to reveal the home’s open plan. “It’s a solid statement,” Abramson says. “It establishes a sense of porosity.” rich, tactile materials, such as large- format porcelain tile flooring and the glass and walnut of the staircase, hint at the quiet, chic interiors. “It’s more modern than traditional without being super-white Bauhaus,” says Abramson.
Details such as lowered ceilings in the kitchen and family room create intimacy, and others, such as wood-plank ceilings, layer the space. Their simplicity and elegance meshed effortlessly with Alberts’ furnishing program. “My personal taste—and my interiors—are on the minimal side,” she says. “The furniture has to work for the job and allow people to flow around easily.”
Alberts’ furniture plan relied on tailored shapes in warm neutrals, punctuated by the occasional burst of blue. For several pieces, she called on Chicago-based Maxine Snider. “She was willing to do a custom design or adjust something for us so it would work better,” Alberts explains. “Her pieces are classic and unusual with a contemporary feel but not too modern.” another custom piece, a sizable dining table by Bulthaup, appears in the breakfast room adjacent to the custom kitchen, which the architects laid out and then collaborated with Bulthaup kitchen designer Chris Tosdevin to fine-tune.
Throughout the house, art by both established and emerging artists adorns the walls. In the living room, large-scale paintings by Deanna Thompson and Audra Weaser hang opposite each other. A mixed media piece by Laddie John Dill graces the dining room, and a seascape by Warner Friedman brings an inkling of the outdoors to the basement billiard room. More of the couple’s collection appears outside, where bronze sculptures by guy dill can be found.
Landscape designer Lisa Zeder kept the generous outdoor spaces elegant and understated. “We treated the garden as an extension of the greens and brought in California sycamores to humanize the space and create view corridors,” she says. Working with a palette emphasizing pinks, burgundies and blues for the rear garden, Zeder brought in ornamental grasses for soft movement, incorporated custom planters designed by the architects to mesh with the hardscape and dotted the property with succulent-filled bowls.
For Alberts, the true measure of a successful project comes “when everything is installed, and I look at the owners and say, ‘yes, they belong here,’ ” she says. “That’s the way I feel about this house,” adds Abramson: “they had great faith in us, and the house became a reflection of them. It’s fantastic.”