From the Inside Out
Five new architectural interiors from the East and West coasts and the Midwest.
72 and Sunny
Playa Vista, California | Lean Arch
The sprawling former offices of the visionary and eccentric businessman Howard Hughes in Playa Vista have undergone an extensive renovation, and are now a major playground for creative offices and academic institutions like Youtube, Earthbound Media, and UCLA’s new Ideas Campus. But only one company got to be in the Hercules Campus’ Building One, home to Hughes’ administrative building and his own office: advertising and media company 72 and Sunny.
They hired LA studio Lean Arch to create a new space that “creates a feeling of awe,” inside the space according to Lean’s principal James Myers. The firm kept most of the two-story space simple, open, and timeless, inserting a few key focal points.
Primary among these are a first floor work pod and second floor executive office, each partially exposed to passersby through timber louvers or slats. Beyond that are a large central floating stair, supported on steel Y-braces and propped on a multi-level wood base for congregating; an adjacent lush green wall and open kitchen; and a large cement board–clad board room on the second floor with angular walls and fish scale–like siding. Meyer likens it to a “starship transporter.” Its conference table is designed to look like a giant surfboard (all of the office’s conference rooms are named after surf breaks).
Around this, employees’ office spaces are arranged in four large quadrants of open seating. Most have easy access to natural light, and, nearby, to large openings onto the lovely tree-lined courtyards, which were brought back to life after years of neglect. The company wanted a clean, uncluttered look, so wires and mechanical systems do not protrude beneath the line of the building’s original steel trusses. The flashiest ornamentation comes from the offices’ many presentation walls, filled with ideas and sketches.
Meanwhile, at the end of a second floor hallway Hughes’ original offices—known as Mahogany Row—have had their elegant wood detailing preserved, albeit with new floating ceilings, floors, and dry wall surrounding it. It is fun to see brainstorming sessions taking place inside Hughes’ own office nearby. Indeed, his spirit of adventure lives on here. And it will continue, as Lean Arch’s renovation of Building Two is supposed to be complete by July, doubling 72 and Sunny’s space.
The offices of this media company are cheerful and connected to the outdoors.
Lighting: Restoration Hardware
Carl Hansen & Son
West Side Town House
NEW YORK | O’Neill Rose Architects
Located behind a landmarked Victorian facade on the Upper West Side, this modern home is a careful study in line and proportion, which subtly transitions from an abstracted traditional language to sleek contemporary as you move from the parlor to the penthouse. Designed by Brooklyn-based O’Neill Rose Architects, this townhouse was completely reconstructed from several apartments into a large five-floor house, with a garden rental apartment below.
The architects looked at historic townhouses for inspiration for details and materials, including herringbone floors, and handsome marble mantels for the working fireplaces. They worked closely with the builders and craftsmen to make sure every detail was well made and respectful of the house’s proportions.
The hand plastered ceiling and the underside of the staircase exemplify this bespoke approach. “I worked with [the contractors] for three or four weeks drawing the line of the staircase on the wall, they would build it up, and then we’d make adjustments,” said firm principal Devin O’Neill. “It was satisfying to work at that level and make it just right.” The result is a sinuous staircase that winds through the space like a piece of sculpture.
Above the parlor floor, the design language is slightly more abstract. The focal point of that level is a roomy open kitchen, which extends out to a spacious terrace. Large ceramic tiles made to look like limestone extend out onto the terrace. “The terrace and the kitchen are meant to be a continuous living space,” said O’Neill. Custom white cabinets and textured cream-colored ceramic backsplashes from Heath Ceramics create an inviting but serene environment, which encourages views out through the expansive windows. Midcentury furnishings from Carl Hansen are mixed with contemporary pieces for a spare but fresh look.
The following two floors are private family quarters, with a master suite on the third level, and four kids rooms on the fourth. Tucked behind the mansard roof is a sleek penthouse family room with a monumental, 14-foot-wide-by-7½-foot-wide glass wall from Rochester Glass that opens onto another small terrace. “We really wanted to open the house out, to connect with views of the city,” said O’Neill.
Alan G. Brake
The lower floors of this renovated townhouse are more traditional, while the upper floors are more contemporary, culminating in a sleek penthouse family room.
Big Sur, California | Fougeron Architecture
Perched 250 feet above the Pacific Ocean, Fall House, designed by Fougeron Architecture, could easily have been overwhelmed by its dramatic setting. Yet the house’s interior, in particular, counterposes a sense of security against the wildness of the site. The casual modernity of the design, which emphasizes warmth, comfort, and simplicity, stands in contrast to both its natural surroundings and the log-cabin architecture of the region. “On the inside, too, these clients specifically didn’t want a sort of ramshackle Big Sur house,” said principal Anne Fougeron. “They wanted something that was comfortable and easy to use.”
Fall House’s exterior and interior are seamlessly integrated, particularly in terms of materials. Aiming for a continuous floor plane, the architects selected a French limestone that is hard enough for both outdoor and indoor use. The stained mahogany ceilings and wall panels similarly create a dialogue with the building’s copper facade. The mahogany “wraps
the building in the same fashion” as the copper and “gives a real warmth,” said Fougeron. The windows are also framed in mahogany, both a practical and aesthetic choice.
Furnishing the house, said Fougeron, “was about finding fairly plush but classic pieces that [the clients] wouldn’t get sick of.” Most of the pieces, including the sectional in the open plan living/dining/kitchen area, are from B&B Italia. The bookshelves in the den, which Fougeron calls “the hearth and home of the house,” were custom-designed by the firm for their former office. “You can tell it’s not brand new, which is sort of great. I love the idea of repurposing it.”
Fougeron Architecture custom-designed the kitchen cabinets in white and dark wood. “We like the contrast,” said Fougeron. “The whiteness provides that sort of minimalist modernity. At the same time, the wood grounds it a little bit more. An all-white kitchen would have been garish.” The fixtures are primarily sand-blasted chrome, with Corian surfaces in the bathrooms. Downlights by Delta Lights and track lighting by Halo are integrated into the ceilings.
Fougeron Architecture’s interior design strategy reaches its peak in the den, the literal and metaphorical center of Fall House. The only room enclosed entirely in glass, the den could feel exposed. Instead, the warm wood window frames, cushioned chairs, and gas fireplace create a pocket of intimacy. It, like the rest of the house, is a refuge, a safe place both within and apart from its spectacular site.
Anna Bergen Miller
In contrast to the typical ramshackle Big Sur house, Fougeron turned out a modern, easy-to-use living space.
Black Ocean Headquarters
New York CITY | Rafael de Cardenas/Architecture at Large
“I don’t really like the dot com look,” explained Rafael de Cardenas, principal at Architecture at Large. For the digital media company Black Ocean, de Cardenas created a space that is industrial but sleek, infused with a bold graphic style that is his firm’s signature.
Located in a former firehouse with narrow floor plates, the building had serious constraints. Rather than hide those limitations, de Cardenas embraced them and celebrated the building’s fabric, like the Romanesque arched windows on the top floor. Florescent lighting in a zigzag arrangement snake down hallways and into open areas, providing a unifying element between narrow and more spacious zones.
On the ground floor a lobby and a casual stadium style seating area lead to a rear carriage house outfitted with conference rooms. Above are two floors of open offices and collaborative work areas. A strict color palette of white, black, and gray is punctuated by more luxurious materials, such as the copper accents seen, among other places, in the stair stepped pendant lights that illuminate open areas. Partner offices, one with a striking, multi-globe chandelier, and conference rooms fill the forth floor.
“I like graphic things, I respond to sharpness. We often use abstracted patterns to create visually buzzing elements,” said de Cardenas. In graduating from the childish, slacker aesthetics of early new media offices, Architecture at Large helped build buzz around its client.
Alan G. Brake
Architecture at Large gave this digital media company a boldly graphic, but grown-up identity.