July 7, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
On a warm Saturday at the end of June, armed with a GPS, I navigated around the labyrinth of Los Angeles freeways and surface streets for Dwell on Design’s self-guided tour of five East Side residences.
Join me for this first in a series of five in the Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods where we’ll visit homes and gardens that exemplify a modern and conceptually-driven design aesthetic, that is at the same time socially and environmentally sensitive.
Winding my way up the steps to owner/architect Norman Millar’s Arkhouse, I was transported somewhere else–perhaps to the South of France–by the fragrance of Rosemary and Thyme growing at the entrance to the residence. Already absorbed in the experience just by scent alone, I became transfixed before I entered the house.
The exterior materials at once catch attention as they are simple yet, in the way that they are combined, unusual.
Concrete cinder blocks mix with perforated corrugated metal panels around the ceiling to floor sliding glass doors, which provide needed ventilation and open up on to to the vast amount of vegetation outdoors.
The house was built a year ago as an addition to an existing shack that still stands below on the property. The owner and architect, who selected the site for its views across downtown LA, said his greatest challenge was, like that of most homeowners, money.
A green roof offers insulation and home grown food from its plentiful vegetable garden. When I was visiting, there was an ample amount of tomatoes, kale, arugula, lettuce, peppers, garlic, and parsley. “We picked our breakfast from the roof this morning,” the owner, dean of the School of Architecture at Woodbury University, told me.
The house is remarkably private considering it’s location. Plantings, like this huge cactus above and other plantings, cleverly screen the property from its neighbors, offering a feeling of seclusion smack in the middle of the city.
Visit us again for the next four houses on this tour.