By Vanessa Brunner | Houzz
While working on the primary residence of a Hollywood actor, writer, and producer, Los Angeles architects John Bertram and Eliot Mitchell were asked to work on another special building at the back of the property. Located on a beautiful lot behind Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, the client wanted to make use of a steep hillside and build a studio for him to write in. The original vision was a stark, rustic cabin — something with a teahouse feel. However, as the design developed, the writer’s studio turned into a studio and guest house, and the aesthetic transformed considerably.
Because of the epic view, the client originally wanted to make use of the scenery and install a wall made entirely out of windows. That wasn’t the best choice in terms of functionality, so Bertram and Mitchell opted to construct a unique corner window unit that took advantage of the beautiful view. The result is a structure that uses the view as its inspiration and blends with its surroundings. The 300-square-foot studio is warm, natural and simply furnished — the perfect getaway that is bound to force the client out of any bouts of writer’s block.
The architects had initially done a complete remodel on the client’s home just down the hill from the studio. Throughout the renovation process, the client told Bertram and Mitchell that he really wanted to construct a small studio/guest house on the hillside behind his home. A modern look was a necessity, but Bertram and Mitchell also wanted to give the studio a warm, cabin-like vibe that melded with the landscape.
The studio has an amazing view from three of its four sides. The client and the architects knew that sliding windows that pocket completely into the structure were a must. Mitchell and Bertram wanted to make sure to use the view in a practical and efficient way, which is why there is no corner post in this angled window. Comfortable Office Chairs to Increase Productivity.
“It’s always sort of interesting when an architect has to convince a client that a wall of glass may not be the best decision,” says Mitchell. “Even though you don’t want to obstruct any part of the beautiful view, sometimes it’s just not practical.” Since the structure is an office most of the time, and is in extremely sunny Los Angeles, having an entire glass facade would have let in too much light during the day, making it unbearably hot inside.
The facade and deck of the studio are made of Ipe wood, which is both durable and fire-resistant — a huge benefit for someone living in fire country.
In one of the primary designs for the studio, the client wanted the deck to go all the way around the studio. “It became a bit smaller, and then a bit bigger,” laughs Mitchell. “Finally, we adjusted it to what it is now, which I think is perfect for the space.”
The steep hillside became a pretty big challenge. “It was difficult to just get all the materials on the site and work on the building because of the steepness and height of the hill,” says Mitchell. “We had to really build a strong foundation, which took a while.”
Parts of the foundation had to be hand dug deep into the hill’s bedrock. “It’s just the kind of thing that comes with having a house in the Los Angeles hills,” says Mitchell. “You have to realize there’s going to be a lot of foundation work.”
Stone steps lead up from the main home to the house on the hill, and steps made of Ipe travel from a stone landing to the studio’s deck. The desert-like landscaping, designed by Elysian Landscapes, adds to the warmth of the studio and its surroundings.
Teak built-ins and a simple twin bed transform this studio into a guesthouse — or a place to take a nap if writer’s block hits. The teak built-in bed and shelving not only adds to the studio’s streamlined aesthetic, but it also serves as a form of earthquake safety (another issue that comes with living in Southern California). With everything built into the walls themselves, there’s no risk of destroyed property or injured individuals after a serious tremor. “Earthquake safety is pretty inherent when you’re working in LA,” says Mitchell. “Structural codes demand it, and the deep foundation of this studio and the impact wall on the back really serve as preventative measures.” What to Consider Before Buying Teak Patio Furniture.
A very modern half-bath helps to round out this studio as a potential guest house. Bertram and Mitchell used a Duravit Starck 2 Toilet, and fixtures from Vola. A neon orange panel livens up the bathroom with a surprising splash of color.
Zoning laws dictated that the studio couldn’t have a full bath, so Bertram and Mitchell supplemented the indoor half-bath with an outdoor shower from Boffi. The secluded nature of the studio and its outside deck, combined with the balmy weather of Los Angeles, made an outdoor shower a natural fit.
For the exterior, Bertram and Mitchell tried something new and installed a rain screen system. The outer facade has a 1/4-inch space between each board, making it permeable. The Ipe wood will expand and contract with the changes in weather and moisture, so the boards were placed on a clip system that allows them to move. The air circulation makes for a healthier wood and helps the building stay cooler.
Besides working with the site’s incline of the site, the corner window unit was the primary challenge. Because of its delicate construction, everything had to be perfect. The frame on the exterior of the window is made of aluminum, and has a gutter underneath to catch any runoff water from the window. The interior has a teak frame with a roll-down shade and lighting on the lip above the desk. “It was a very careful construction,” says Mitchell. “It involved a lot of work, and a lot of help from the builders and the contractors. The collaboration on that aspect was great.”
The sliding construction of the window allows it to open completely, with the glass sliding into a pocket within the building itself. “This window is one of those classic, modern details that looks really simple, but is incredibly complicated,” says Mitchell. “We had to go back and forth with the contractor on the how-to for a long time.”
The construction of the window and built-in desk is meant to allow the view to continue on into the room and become a fixture in the studio. “Humans tend to gravitate towards views like this,” says Mitchell. “Whether it’s a body of water or a mountain range, looking at something beautiful like this becomes a source of inspiration and quietude.”
During construction, a lot of things were flipped, and entire concepts were scrapped. “It was really a great luxury,” explains Mitchell. “It’s great to truly be able to suss it out with the client. You don’t always have the time or capability to figure out all of the details, redesign and make it work.”
The teak built-ins, shown here before the client moved in, were designed to blend into the rest of the interior simply, smoothly, and efficiently. At first, the client wanted to have the studio done in a rich American black walnut, since that’s what he has in his main home. Eventually he and the architects decided that this studio should be done in a very different tone from the main house, taking the project in another direction entirely. Display Your Media in These Entertainment Centers and TV Stands.
A conscientious design, an ability to be flexible, and a seamless transition between the indoors and outdoors all combined to create a structure that is beautiful, strong, and efficient. “Seeing the space come together and emerge successfully at the end is always the best part,” says Mitchell. “All of the parties involved in this collaboration were really inspiring. And the client uses this studio all the time — which is incredibly satisfying.”
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