Minarc Designs a Stairway to the Stars for a Couple in West Los Angeles
Erla Ingjaldsdóttir and Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, married architects and co-founders of the Santa Monica-based studio Minarc, have peppered the Los Angeles landscape with residences. Prefabricated through their proprietary nmn-Mod panel system, compact ADU’s, or expansive and custom-built, they have at least one point in common—all are strictly contemporary. Not an extraneous flourish in sight. The duo’s latest project, completed just pre-Covid, falls into the last category. It’s a 8,200-square-foot, ground-up dwelling on a nearly double lot in the Mar Vista sector of West Los Angeles. The client couple, he from Miami and she a native of Spain, spied a Minarc project on Pinterest and made the call. The commission, therefore, was just a click away.
Though large, the two-story volume (with the added attribute of a full basement, unusual for Los Angeles), presents a stunning face to the street without imposing upon the rather modest scale of the surrounding neighborhood. That’s because the dwelling is anything but a tough monolith. Instead, it has cut-away glazed corners and the warmth of swaths of ipé in long horizontal planks along the first floor, switching to vertical for the second. Meanwhile, that upper level is set back, alleviating bulk and creating a peek of a see-through situation. The real transparency, however, comes with the six panes of full-height glass stretching across almost the entire front. Look in to see the folded steel stairway connecting the two floors above grade and one below. The real stunner, though, is the outdoor counterpart. It leads to the roof where 360-degree views take in the natural splendor of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains coupled with the built milieu of Downtown Los Angeles. Ergo the sobriquet of “Stairway to the Stars.”
This being Los Angeles, with its storied climate, a courtyard is part of the entry procession. Marked by a double set of pivot doors, ingress starts with an 8-foot-high version leading to the semi-enclosed area secluded from the street. Then, entrance to the house proper comes through an even taller portal stretching to 12 feet. Predictably, the main space inside is an open expanse encompassing living, dining, den, and kitchen functions. Regardless, Erla and Tryggvi (as they are known) designed a bit of definition. At one end of the living area, a freestanding white cube encloses a powder room and sets off the kitchen, dining, and TV room behind. Cleverly, it’s topped with a glass ceiling to let light in. At the other end, a partition for the fireplace fronts a wall of rift oak cabinetry, flanked by a built-in library of the same, for the owner’s music apparatus and copious collection of vinyl. Oak reappears as flooring and for the custom-built kitchen fit with Gaggenau appliances. Custom, too, are the dining table and focal island, the later of solid surfacing.
Upstairs, the main bedroom and bath are joined by an office-studio with two bedrooms for their kids in between to form a U-configuration. The two corner rooms open to terraces. All, in fact, are oriented to overlook what is essentially another grand room for living. That’s the outdoor environment complete with 50-foot-long pool set within an ipè deck in turn surrounded by a stepped-up concrete patio. Glass sliders throughout the first floor make for a seamless transition between indoors and out. A bonus, sure, but not the only one.
How about that basement? No, call it a full-fledged screening room and discotheque for the owner, who once ran a music festival in Mexico and composes music on his own. Though moody and dark when enjoyed for entertainment, it too embraces the light. Courtyards at front and side make sure of that.
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