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STYLE: ARCHITECTURE : Angles of Repose : Hard edges in three homes are softened by blendings of concrete and wood : Sea of Tranquillity

March 27, 1994|BARBARA THORNBURG

With its vibrant colors and rich, organic materials, architect Steven Ehrlich's recent renovation for Hannah Hempstead, who directs television commercials, is a home in harmony with its environment.

Located on a quiet street in Venice, the stucco box was transformed with maple, Douglas fir, copper and Idaho flagstone into an expansive two-story structure of bold spaces and planes. On the outside, in the tradition of warm-weather architecture, Ehrlich's modern California-Mediterranean-style home has thick walls and recessed doors and windows to provide protection from the sun. Inside, the two-foot walls cradle a series of closets, shelves and cabinets. Hempstead never uses her air conditioning. "I open all the front and back windows to take advantage of the tropical breezes and to listen to the rustle of the palm trees," she says.

Ehrlich's architecture, such as in the Sony building and the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, frequently features exterior spaces that become seamless extensions of the indoors, creating outdoor rooms for living. Here, casement windows directly above the French doors in the 12-foot-ceiling living room help to connect the inside with the outside, while the flagstone traverses the front enclosed patio area and extends out to the back yard. A lap pool sits within diving distance of the living room.

So like the colors of Italy's Positano, the burnt sienna and ocher on the exterior were achieved through mixing pigments into the stucco, then hand troweling and burnishing for a mottled, handcrafted quality. Repeated on the interior living room and bedroom fireplaces, and on a wall adjacent to the stairwell, the colors bring warmth to the modern interior by repeating the connection with the earth. Ehrlich's goal: "To create a place of tranquillity in connection with the natural environment that is simple, light-filled and protective. As our society becomes more urban, our homes must become our pockets of repose."

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