Kelly Wearstler and Masastudio design California home as a “modern ruin”

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This sprawling white concrete house in California is laid out like a “village” of open and enclosed spaces, with architecture by Masastudio and interiors by Kelly Wearstler.

The home in Los Angeles was designed for clients who are avid art collectors, and have a deep appreciation for contemporary architecture and design.

The Romick House comprises white concrete volumes and has a strong connection to the outdoors

Having amassed a large plot of land through the purchase of several small parcels, the family with grown children wanted to create a permanent home with plenty of space for entertaining.

They gathered a team comprising architecture firm Masastudio, interior designer Kelly Wearstler and landscape architect Andrea Cochran to bring their vision for a “modern ruin” to life.

At the centre of the house is an oval-shaped courtyard that features an ancient olive tree

“I’ve always been influenced by Louis Kahn‘s work and the idea of looking more towards ancient architecture and ruins,” Masastudio cofounder Marwan Al Sayed told Dezeen.

“In some of our initial meetings, the clients often referred to the feeling you get when you’re inside Greek architecture,” he continued. “There’s a timelessness and solemnity to it. But at the same time, they’re both very interested in art and collecting art. So they’re very open, and have a modern sensibility.”

Around the central Oculus are spaces for displaying the client’s art collection

In the main house, spaces pinwheel around a central atrium, where a glass-wrapped oval courtyard known as the Oculus features an ancient olive tree.

Shaped to be reminiscent of works by Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși, the courtyard’s curved perimeter creates circulation around it, as well as a gallery area for displaying artwork — chosen with the help of an art advisor.

Several spaces fully open to the outdoors, including the salon which is designed to complement a George Condo painting

“Looking across through the glass Oculus to the other side, we created more depth by allowing views of really beautiful pieces of art beyond,” said Wearstler.

“We made sure that there was a bench or a moment where somebody could just sit and appreciate them, or take a call.”

A breakfast room on the opposite side to the salon similarly opens to the landscape

The four primary public spaces branch off this piazza-like space in cardinal directions, and are open to both the central courtyard and the gardens to create a continuous open-air flow through the building.

“They’re all connected visually,” said Al Sayed. “It’s almost like a street, and then the buildings are like a village.”

Board-formed concrete, weathered wood and glass form the primary material palette inside the home

“The sense of exploration and discovery is amazing,” added Wearstler, who described the atmosphere inside the home as “soulful modern”.

In the corners between these areas, concrete volumes enclose rooms like a library, kitchen, his and hers studies, and extra bedrooms.

A lounge area forms part of the primary bedroom suite on the upper level

The largest of the open spaces is the salon, which leads out to a hardscaped terrace that steps down to the soft landscaping where an old elm tree grows.

The salon offers multiple soft seating options for large gatherings, all upholstered in muted, earthy tones that allow a brightly coloured George Condo painting to stand out.

The primary bathroom is lined entirely in dramatic black and white marble, which is also used for a custom bathtub

“We were really working with the color story of the artworks and with the openings to the exterior, so it was all in synchronicity,” said Wearstler.

On the opposite side of the oculus is a breakfast room, while the perpendicular axis directs from the home’s entryway to the dining room – where a shallow pool forms a platform for a sculpture.

The home has two staircases that lead up to bedrooms on different sides of the building

In each of these spaces, the ceiling curves gently upwards towards the exterior, and continues to lift passed the operable glass partitions to culminate as a thin overhang that offers shade.

“The whole roof from all four of those pinwheeling spaces billows down slightly, so it’s almost like the underside of a manta ray,” Al Sayed said. “It’s such an open-air house, because all the doors are so beautifully pocketed inside the walls. So you have really monumental-scale openings.”

Pockets of space between the rooms are used to display sculptures

Two sculptural staircases with solid wooden bannisters lead up to different sections of the upper floor.

One runs in a straight flight and provides access to the primary suite, which includes a cosy, neutral-toned sitting area with wood panelling.


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The primary bathroom has walls, floor and a central bathtub made entirely of the same dramatically veined marble.

The end wall is perforated to bring in light, and a small gold-leaf artwork on the wall provides the only colour against the black and white stone.

The property also includes a pool house, which is raised on a podium “like a Greek temple”

“The client wanted a bathtub that feels perfect,” said Wearstler. “So we had the stone tub made as a full-scale model, so he could actually sit in it and make sure that the proportions and all the detailing were great for his body.”

The second, winding staircase connects to guest bedrooms upstairs and a basement, while a fitness suite is located at ground level beyond a breezeway.

Inside the concrete pool house is a conversation pit and dining table for entertaining

Also part of the project, a pool house was constructed close to the main building, on a platform elevated five feet (1.5 metres) above the lawn.

“It’s raised up almost like a Greek temple,” said Al Sayed, who described how the adjacent basalt swimming pool is also designed to reflect the elm tree in the garden.

A circular skylight sits within an indent in the black plaster ceiling

Inside the glass and concrete pool house volume is a conversation pit, a large dining table and its own kitchen, so it can operate self-sufficiently if needed.

Above the seating area is a circular skylight within a concave indent in the black plaster ceiling, which “disappears into the sky” at night.

The pool house also has its own kitchen so the building can operate self-sufficiently

At the back, a sunken bedroom suite faces onto a concrete courtyard with a single tree, hidden from the rest of the property for extra privacy.

Throughout the project, the board-formed concrete is meticulously detailed, which Al Sayed credits to the skill of local contractors Valle Reinis Builders.

Below the pool house is a sunken bedroom suite that faces onto a private courtyard

The outdoor space acts like a sculpture garden, with large works by artists including Beverly Pepper dotted through the landscape.

These artworks are carefully framed by views from the house, creating a synergy between architecture, interiors and landscape.

A single tree planted in the concrete courtyard is visible from the bathroom

Al Sayed and partner Mies Anderson founded Masastudio in 1997 in Arizona, before relocating to Los Angeles. The studio is perhaps best known for designing the ultra-luxury Amangiri resort in the Utah desert.

LA-based Wearstler is one of the world’s most famous interior designers and counts several locations for the Proper hotels group in Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles, Austin and San Francisco among her portfolio.

The photography is by The Ingalls.

The post Kelly Wearstler and Masastudio design California home as a “modern ruin” appeared first on Dezeen.

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