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.


  1. b&b breakfast said:

    Beautiful all Pics ! Nice location and awesome Posting

    — July 8, 2011 @ 06:25

  2. Ellen said:

    Great post, Robin! Love the Arkhouse vibe. Is it open to the public or do you need an appointment to tour it?

    — July 8, 2011 @ 10:30

  3. Annette said:

    Great photos. I wanted to do the tour and now I feel I have. Can’t wait to see the rest. That steel patio is really amazing. Thanks.

    — July 8, 2011 @ 11:33

  4. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Sadly, Ellen, the tour was part of the Dwell on Design conference I attended at the end of June. But you can plan on next year’s!

    — July 9, 2011 @ 14:11

  5. peter said:

    “This courtyard is quite literally at the center of attention, a giant gaping hole in the middle of a simple square modern home that seems to exist as much to define the enclosed garden space within as it does to house residents inside.

    Hiding beneath the new, flat, punched-hole roofscape lies an existing structure that was extended into a new and bigger residence by A69. By unifying the exterior facade with sharp corners and perpendicular planes and opening a nearly-uniform central void, old and new are tied seamlessly together from inside yet remain distinguishable when one walks around the building.

    The interior open garden is extremely simple and flat in plan, punctuated by tall trees that already existed on the site and provide some shade and betray the age of the space.

    Surrounding this central circle are common areas ringed with windows to provide access to natural light and ventilation on all sides and visually connect common spaces across the courtyard space.

    — October 17, 2011 @ 21:27

  6. vip card said:

    A gentle slope and a few steps brings visitors to the L-shaped house that was one of my favorites for the manner in which the boundaries between indoors and out were blurred. Forming an â??Sâ?? shape around two informal courtyards, the contemporary house rises between pairs of concrete walls from the ground to the main upper level.

    — March 10, 2012 @ 03:27

  7. Agen Bola said:

    What a great creative use of sure beats looking at concrete! May your garden grow.

    — August 17, 2012 @ 03:47

  8. Dwell House Tour #2: Los Angeles Modern Homes and Gardens - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

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  9. Irene Millar said:

    Are the metal sculptures by Sokari camp?

    — June 6, 2022 @ 13:24

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