Courtyard House

This project is developed out of love–and, truth be told, some disdain–for the residential architecture of Westside Los Angeles, the context where we live and work.

Love: For the soulful old ‘20s houses that dot our neighborhoods, many of them Mediterranean-inspired. Big, small, fancy, plain—they feel at home here. Love: For the innovative modern houses from the ‘40s onwards, simple and elegant shelters that foster the indoor/outdoor flow of life we cherish here. Love: For the eclectic architectural experimentation of Venice and Culver City.

Disdain: For the proliferation of new, huge, disastrously proportioned and undistinguished houses that are fast replacing all the modest, unique houses built before 1980. They push to the edges of their constrained sites, full of rooms with windows that look only to property side yards and into the windows of whatever hulking mcmansion is just ten feet away on the next lot. Disdain: For the predictable interior spaces in these houses.

We can’t change the boom-or-bust mentality that has forever defined the LA real estate scene. We understand there is a checklist of spaces and amenities required for a home to fetch top dollar here, and square footage must be maximized.

But we’re also convinced that it can be accomplished with higher expectations, and with more beauty and liveability.

We’ve taken a standard 50’ x 150’ West LA/Santa Monica lot (currently going for $1.5 to $2.0 million), and developed a house that meets typical property development standards and maximizes buildable square footage.

But beyond that, it’s anything but typical: A courtyard brings air and light into all major rooms of the house, and provides a focus around which all family activity takes place. Interior spaces are varied, generous, and designed for real families, and the spatial sequences introduce an element of mystery into the house. We’ve studied several ways to finish the exterior of the building, each which respect and integrate with the spaces inside. Our goal is for the architectural concept to be rigorous but generous, with the ability to adapt to various neighborhood contexts and owner personalities. We’ve channeled the best of deep California precedents from George Washington Smith to Cliff May and on to the Venice School, exploring material palettes that feel at home in Southern California.

We’re continuing to develop this until it’s perfect, which includes all the good stuff such as European Passive House standards, zero or near-zero energy footprint, sustainable materials, and construction logic that’s simple and cost-effective to build.

But, more importantly, our goal is to create a sense of place that’s rich and deep, earthy and unique, at home in this beautiful place. Here’s our starting point.

Jenn Shore