Touring Los Angeles Modern Homes and Gardens

July 7, 2011 by

Passing a yin-yang floor mosaic that leads to the front door. Photo: Robin 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.

Looking up from the street to the rising silhouette of Arkhouse. Photo: Robin Horton.

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.

Corrugated metal panels flank the floor to ceiling windows. Photo: Robin Horton.

The exterior materials at once catch attention as they are simple yet, in the way that they are combined, unusual.

A side terrace dining table and bench offers seating beside the front entrance. Photo: Robin Horton.

A decorative metal gate closes off the property from the street. Photo: Robin Horton.

Through yellow glass resembling small portholes, one can peek out between the cinder blocks. Photo: Robin Horton.

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.

An interior stairwell opens on to the exterior at many points throughout the property. Photo: Robin Horton.

The residence is an addition to this original shed. Photo: Robin Horton.

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 bit of folkloric garden art reflects the surroundings. Photo: Robin Horton.

Various seating areas divide the rooftop garden. Photo: Robin Horton.

A partially covered dining area sits at one end looking out on the cityscape beneath Chinese lanterns. Photo: Robin Horton.

The rooftop veggie garden gets plenty of SoCal sun in between polycarbonate panels. Photo: Robin Horton.

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.

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