Hollywood legend has it that Charlie Chaplin perfected his characteristic splayed-foot waddle by pacing up and down Los Angeles’s hilly Baxter Street. The hill rises at a harsh 32 percent grade on both sides of its slopes, making it one of the steepest urban inclines in the nation. Perched partway up is a stark rhomboid-shaped white and gray home with a particular gait of its own. The 2,400-square-foot residence was recently completed by Optimist Design, a studio run by German-born production designer Tino Schaedler.

The home—conceived by Schaedler and artist Pia Habekost for their growing family—came into being after the couple had spent years living in a landlocked loft in L.A’s Arts District; their only outdoor access was a shared rooftop.

“We wanted to live in a different way,” Schaedler said. “I wanted to create an area where I could lie down and read with a view to outside.”

In some ways, the big-windowed abode is a prototypical Los Angeles hillside home. Its stick-frame construction and three-level organization stand out as hallmarks of the vernacular style; a two-car garage and a spare room that Habekost utilizes as a studio occupy the first floor. The building’s main floor above, however, contains more remarkable spaces, including the home’s indoor-outdoor terrace and living room.

“The view is really beautiful—it was clear to me that I wanted to orient everything toward that beautiful sunset,” Schaedler explained as he described the terrace, which occupies approximately half of the second level’s floor plate. The 16-by-51-foot band is capped on one end by a wading pool and palm tree–studded courtyard. Roughly two-thirds of the way down the terrace, a section of the roof wraps over it, creating an outdoor extension of the home’s interior living room, which connects to the patio via a monolithic glass pocket door. Anchored by a built-in pizza oven, the patio is also populated by built-in benches, potted plants, and bent-metal-tube furniture. The indoor-outdoor space is clad along its eastern exposure by perforated metal panels designed to provide privacy while still allowing the residents to see out over the hillside. An overhead threshold protrudes from the main building to meet the perforated metal wall, creating a view frame.

Baxter Street’s steep grade allows the house to enjoy spectacular sunset views. (Courtesy Kristopher Grunert)

Back inside the house, the dramatic living room—also oriented outward over the hill—is sandwiched between the terrace and a minimalist kitchen that features graphite-stained paneling that can slide closed, stowing away kitchen clutter. A stainless-steel bar counter separates the cooking area from the living room, where a pair of cats take up residence on a rumpled leather sofa.
The home’s floors are made up of custom tongue-and-groove flooring, crafted by a local mill, while one of the living room walls is stacked entirely with books, its weighty shelves lined with integrated LED lights that, at night, “adjust to whatever vibe we want to set,” as Schaedler tells it.

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