If it’s difficult to tear yourself away from this meandering residence in Los Angeles that architects Dean L. Pratt and Hugh Huddleson designed for their clients, that was just their intention. “The homeowners wanted to be able to wander and feel as if they were in a park-like setting–they wanted a property they never felt compelled to leave,” says Pratt. Granting their clients’ wish meant imagining a bright-white stucco-clad house that calls to mind the designs of early 20th-century architect Irving Gill and boasts a serpentine plan that connects to the dynamic 2-acre landscape at almost every turn. “There are views to courtyards, gardens and ponds on two sides of nearly every room,” Pratt says. “No matter where you are in the house or the landscape, you’re engaged.”
While the rambling feel of the layout was inspired by the clients’ desire for a complex experience, the aesthetic was informed by their history. “The husband’s family has lived in Los Angeles for generations and so we thought about early California Spanish Colonial architecture as well as the early modernists in Southern California, particularly Gill,” Huddleson says. “The house is a fusion of those two things. It capitalizes on the softness and the poetry of Spanish Colonial style and also has some of the minimalism and understatement of early modernism.”
The home is marked by white stucco walls, terra-cotta roof tiles and the dark-stained Douglas fir of the garage doors. On the interior, more stained Douglas fir canopies the voluminous living room, where terra-cotta tile floors and stained-wood windows add warmth and texture. “Almost all of the other rooms pinwheel off the living room,” Huddleson says. “The clients wanted a big room with lots of light.” In fact, the clients wanted every room to be filled with sunlight. “The husband followed the sun around inside his previous house,” Huddleson says, so he and Pratt planned for the breakfast room and the kitchen of the new house to face east and open onto a large sun-drenched courtyard with a fountain; the south-facing office looks to an expansive lawn and two ponds. “And the pool area has the perfect afternoon sun exposure for sitting and having a glass of wine,” Huddleson says. “We created a multiplicity of outdoor spaces to discover and spend leisure time in. There are gardens they won’t go in every day, but that they will continually rediscover.”
Designer Luis Ortega let the architecture and the outdoors take the spotlight and took a soft approach to furnishings. “The colors are subdued while the texture is more intense,” he says. “A wall in the master suite is a shade of pale green. It makes sense because there’s so much greenery that surrounds the room.” The designer adorned the vaulted ceiling and the walls of the kitchen with neutral-toned Moroccan tile with a shiny finish. “The math involved in applying that tile to the complex curves of the parabola was one of the more challenging experiences,” says general contractor Shawn Lannen. But the luminous effect of the perfectly laid tiles is a sight to behold. “The glaze changes the tile color while it bakes so they’re all slightly different,” says Ortega. In the living room, the designer used mostly shades of yellow and taupe and covered the sofas in sand-colored fabric and a pair of armchairs in pale yellow. The clients, who are art collectors, asked Ortega to conceive a frieze that wraps around the room. “During the 1920s and ’30s a lot of California interior architecture had murals like this,” the designer says. “We found an amazing painter and asked him to create images that express the California landscape from the early days of the pueblo to today.” Ortega also hung the couple’s collection of vintage Mexican hats above the fireplace.
The gardens, spearheaded by landscape designer Jamie Schwentker, are equally as impressive as the home and its interiors. “The gardens adjacent to the house are more formal,” Schwentker relates. “There’s a progression toward naturalism and asymmetry as you move away.” The front entrance garden with its circular motor court is defined by a canopy of mature native California Coast Live Oak trees, a variety of white flowering vines planted on the walls of the house and attached trellises, and by a mass of white shrub roses. In what Schwentker refers to as the “night garden”–an enclosed, private garden which can be viewed and entered only from the formal dining room and the master suite–he planted lavender among other flora. Blue-flowering jacarandas and orange-flowering silk oak trees are at the pool terrace. “We also planted wisteria vines on the piers of the pool pergola so the panicles can hang down from the wood beams,” Schwentker says. Elsewhere on the property are two large ponds and two stone waterfalls, conveying a sense of timelessness.
It’s not only the romantic grounds that look timeless. In taking its cues from early vernacular forms as well as Gill, the home seems to transcend the years yet engenders a sense of comfort and ease. “This is a place for understated living that’s not lacking in elegance,” Pratt says. “It’s a place you can always have tea somewhere you’ve never had it before.”