When it comes to raising a family, childproofing usually trumps aesthetics. Los Angeles architect Hagy Belzberg builds a house in Hollywood that elegantly mixes work and play.
Perhaps the key to a happy family is: to eat together but work separately. Hagy Belzberg recently completed a residence for a family of three with just such a motto in mind. The clients consist of a “he” who works in e-commerce, often from home; and a “she,” an artist and former model with the need for a studio at home; meanwhile, their young son is at an age where childproofing trumps aesthetics. Add to the brood a growing art collection that also requires a good architectural fit, and you’ve got yourself a logistical challenge.
More accurately, for Belzberg, the starting point was the original one-storey home the couple bought in the Hollywood Hills – a bad example of mid-century modern, says Belzberg. He and his team gutted it to the bare bones, then expanded it into a 530-square-metre, multi-functional “modern Mies.”
Though technically a renovation, the realized home is a completely new experience, custom fit for a family with unique requirements (including private workspaces from which they can reconnect with others by looking into shared rooms without being distracted). In close collaboration with interior designer Ryan Jackson, Belzberg created an environment that anticipates people’s movements throughout the home.
The experience begins as one enters the front gate to the garden, which is intended to be relatively low maintenance, with stone and concrete beds for miniature palms, and narrow ponds to either side. Visually, though, the high-impact landscape provides a celebratory prelude to the interior spaces.
The glass front door reveals a white wall and large artwork (by Los Angeles artist Peter Eaton Gurnz), though the home’s true expanse is only revealed when visitors turn a corner and find themselves standing before the common areas, situated on a single plane. The open kitchen, dining and living areas and playrooms are seamlessly integrated, facing a boot-shaped pool surrounded by inviting loungers.
“The real engineering feat for us was the 15-metre-long single-span beam without any columns,” says Belzberg. The open expanse keeps the interior-exterior flow constant. As we tour the integrated spaces, he tells me that the goal with the sleek white terrazzo flooring was to create a doughnut shape, and “expose the circulation of the home as opposed to concealing it.”
In the southeast wing, the master bedroom overlooks the pool area and the lush mountainside, while a massive adjacent closet features a skylight and a window into the enclosed garden. In the west wing, guest bedrooms and bathrooms ensure privacy while remaining connected to the residential core. A small home theatre is the only cocooned place to be found; the rest is aglow with natural light and white finishes.
Above each wing are the private workspaces. His office features a silver wave marble accent wall, and full-height custom windows tucked into the ceiling provide open views. Her art studio, by contrast, sports concrete floors (for paint spills), a Nanoglass fireplace, and more floor-to-ceiling windows for unframed views of the hillside.
As Ryan Jackson tells me later by phone, “There have to be quiet parts in the architecture and the interior that allow the eyes to rest, creating negative space for art, furnishing and decoration.” The owner echoes that sentiment. Looking out the window from her studio, she says, “We love coming back home. This is where we spiritually relax.”
Project: Rising Glen residence
Location: Hollywood Hills, California
Firm: Belzberg Architects, Los Angeles
Size: 530 square metres
Pool size: 130 square metres
Lot size: 1,858 square metres
Structural features: glass windows and doors by fleetwood, white terrazzo flooring
Other features: custom white oak cabinetry, kitchen countertops by caesarstone, desert collection outdoor loungers by marmol radziner