1404 Oak Grove Drive is a pretty special proposition. Set in a beautiful spot on LA’s Eagle Rock Hillside, and surrounded by Japanese black pines, cedars, spruce and crape myrtles, you wouldn’t know the house was so integrated with the wider city. And yet, it lies just a short walk away from the many restaurants that fill the Colorado Boulevard.
Built in 1961 for a landowner in the area, the home was designed by renowned LA architect Dick E. Lowry. The son of a carpenter, born in Canada and raised in Los Angeles, Lowry obtained a degree in architecture in 1961 from the University of Southern California. After that, he lived and worked for most of his life in Silver Lake and Los Feliz.
One of the particular highlights of Lowry’s mid-century design are the walls of glass. Set within the post and beam structure, with the frames painted black, they allow for a really pleasing interaction between the indoor and outdoor spaces (something which Lowry was especially keen to emphasise in his designs).
This interaction is also enhanced by the roof, which overhangs extensively in various parts of the exterior, including a delightful, decked garden space (which subtly retains the wooden planks used for the walls).
Colour is also used really well. Occurring between the wood textures in various spots, and nicely bordered by the black window frames, there’s just enough vibrancy and variety for the sunlight to work its magic, without overwhelming the visual experience.
Another thing that caught our attention was the distribution of specific colours. Take for instance the dash of red beneath the thin windows on the back side of the house, which repeats much more emphatically on the other side, with a big block of red covering one wall, as well as being featured on the front door.
This emphasis on the colouring is one of the standout features of a significant renovation carried out by the previous owners, one of whom was an architect.
Taking place in 2008, the renovation also involved aligning the original mid-century house with contemporary needs, replacing decayed structural elements, while generally returning the home to Lowry’s original intentions, after the all-too-common mistakes of earlier “improvements”.
A nice example of this balanced approach can be found in the kitchen, where a cooktop and wall-oven of mid-century vintage was combined with pre-existing formica countertops.
Along with the formica countertops, many other original elements are still intact or have been painstakingly restored. Most notable in this regard is the original masonry fireplace, built from Mojave Desert rocks found in Jawbone Canyon, an ideal centrepiece to what is without doubt a peach of a mid-century home.
Photo by Mark Haddawy