Canyon House sits in the hidden coastal neighborhood of Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles. This area is packed with immaculate mid-century homes which have been carefully preserved and protected by their residents for decades.
Originally designed by Architect Kenneth Lind in the late 1950s, the house was owned and loved by the family who commissioned the design for over 60 years.
We spoke with Talbot McLanahan Architect about their remodel and what drove their design.
Do you have any details on the client brief?
The clients asked for the entrance, obscured by a wall, gate and carport, to become a ‘place to arrive’ and for the front of the house to be more open to the street, an open floor plan with visual access to the mature redwoods surrounding the house and warmth through natural light and materials.
What mid century influences did you want to include?
There is a precedent in the neighborhood for a carefully considered carport as an extension of the architecture of the house, in lieu of a large garage door. Ray Kappe’s house nearby inspired the design of a new, cantilevered carport along the edge of the site.
This is the first element one sees when arriving at the houses in this neighborhood, as there are no driveways or alleys.
An open floor plan with direct access to the exterior from most of the rooms to take advantage of the more central placement of the house on the site.
What do you know about the original architect who designed the house and have you had experience with his homes before?
He had designed other significant residential and commercial projects around Los Angeles, but this one appeared to have been designed on a more modest budget. We had access to the original drawings, so it was interesting to look at those to try to understand if any of the original design intentions were compromised in the construction of the house and how we could we bring some of those ideas to life in the remodel.
What were your challenges for this project?
Opening the front of the house to the neighborhood while maintaining a feeling of privacy. A sculptural white, brick wall followed the curve of the driveway and held an iron gate which blocked access to the front door and views out towards the street.
The curved wall was carefully cut back to reveal the front door, and corner window next to the fireplace so there would be visual access to the front yard and street, capturing the more social atmosphere of the neighborhood.
Creating warmth in a house that was built on a concrete slab on grade on a shady site.
What was the house like previously?
Dark, cold and damp feeling. The private rooms were small while public rooms were closed off from each other, the layout was out of date with a kitchen that was completely separate from living and dining areas.
What in your opinion are the best features of the home?
Intentional views out towards the landscape, through new or altered openings.
Existing openings were extended vertically to maximize the view to the trees and new openings were created not only for natural light, but to visually pull the tree trunks into the house – a long horizontal window at eye level when seated in the Living Room brings in southwesterly light and a narrow skylight over the kitchen table aligns with the tallest and skinniest tree.
The accessibility to the exterior with activity and gathering nodes connect the house to its surroundings and provide moments for public and private gathering. New glass pivot doors in the Living Room are centered on an existing round, in-ground fire pit. A hexagonal deck was built around it, allowing for people to gather in the center of the back yard in the shadow of the redwoods.
Off the Kitchen, a year round outdoor cooking and dining area was built, utilizing the space that was once an unused side yard.
A new private cedar deck and hot tub are accessed directly from the main bedroom and bath as the owners wanted this space to feel evocative of their vacations to Big Sur.
Photos by Yoshihiro Makino