It’s important that there’s a sense of craft in our houses,” says architect Russell Shubin. “This one is terraced into the hillside and its materials—wood, steel, stone—come together to create beauty.” It’s a feeling of intention that “gives houses the soulfulness people want,” he adds. And for these homeowners, a young family relocating from Hong Kong, it was also a chance to experience the California lifestyle. Shubin’s design shielded the structure from the street while giving the entire house sweeping L.A. canyon views and cooling breezes. It was just what the couple envisioned.
Shubin, though, admits the property came with steep topography, “They bought a tricky site,” he says, “so we embedded the house into the hillside, and the great room forms the plinth that the other volumes sit on top of.” Viewed from the street side, wood and limestone covers the lion’s share of the façade and gives the home privacy. Stepping down a cascade of stone stairs, past monolith blocks and tidy shrubbery, feels almost like entering a sacred garden—the latter a collaboration with landscape architect Rob Maday. A glass wall at the front door reveals the first glimpse of the interiors, a sitting room and the husband’s office, and two stairwells. One leads up to the family’s bedrooms, and one leads down to the great room, wine cellar, a guest suite, and the pool terrace, where landmarks like the Getty Museum dot the view.
The architect took great pains, though, to ensure the main living area read bright and welcoming. “We did intense light studies to determine how light would penetrate down since we didn’t want it to feel like you’re in a basement,” says Shubin. He employed some clever tricks, like a subtle skylight above the television wall, but it’s really the rear façade made nearly entirely of glass that ensures there’s no shortage of daylight. “It was complicated to get out of the ground on this one,” says Tyler Udall, who, with Ron Udall, served as one of the project’s general contractors. “It’s not a massive home, but it is complex.”
Designers James Magni and Jason Kalman’s approach to the interiors reflects a similarly tranquil and rooted feeling. “Given our clientele and their art collections, our work tends to read as art-focused with a museum-quality,” says Kalman, “but this home was specifically meant to evoke a warm and family-friendly feeling.” Though, Magni notes, they didn’t sacrifice style: “The clients’ willingness to build a furniture collection meant we could mix contemporary designs and pieces with a little history.” The first key purchase for the home was the Edward Wormley La Gondola sofa in the upstairs lounge. More vintage pieces quickly followed suit, including a Franco Albini desk for the adjacent office, and Poul Jensen lounge chairs for the couple’s bedroom, where the designers also created custom elements like a wood headboard with built in nightstands. Vintage Franco Buzzi armchairs found a home in the great room’s sitting area, and Vladimir Kagan dining chairs were paired with a custom table by Napa Valley woodworker Florian Roeper. Magni and Kalman also added a pair of dining benches of their own design. “We wanted something different, more participatory with the space,” Kalman explains of the leather-covered seating. “They break down the formality a little bit.” And as the homeowners enjoy cooking, the duo brought in specialist Laurie Haefele of Haefele Design to collaborate on the kitchen. “It’s adjacent to the dining area, so we wanted it to have less of a traditional kitchen feel,” he continues. “The blackened-steel hood is beautiful, and the appliances are integrated into the walnut.” Along the way, Magni also encouraged the couple’s developing art collection, which includes works by local artists Betty Gold and Christina Craemer.
A similarly collected aesthetic event extends to the outdoor spaces—key for the couple looking forward to embracing a California lifestyle. To that end, the designers sourced pieces from multiple outdoor lines. The result is entertaining areas that feel equally layered and intentional. “The strength of this house is the seamlessness of its exterior, interiors and landscape,” notes Shubin. “And when everything feels like ‘one,’ a house just has a more compelling story.”