"A symphony of light" is how the owners describe this newly revamped '60s suburban tract house in Tarzana. With its enormous windows, expanses of blond wood and rippled aluminum, the formerly unremarkable interior now seems to shimmer on sunny days along the back slope of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The couple--she's an artist, he's a doctor--turned to Santa Monica-based architects Kevin Daly and Chris Genik for help soon after their three children moved out. The two wanted a bigger living area and room for her to work and display her large-scale paintings and cast-bronze sculptures. In addition, the couple needed more storage space for a lifetime of accumulated possessions.
"This project is not uncommon for what we are seeing in our office," says Kevin Daly. "We call them second-generation homes, places where the children can still gather but places that are more about two people living, entertaining and staying at home."
"The problem with this house," the artist remembers, "was that there were lots of spaces, but they didn't flow." In response, Daly and Genik removed interior walls to turn six rooms into one large, loft-like space, with various living areas defined by free-standing elements such as Douglas-fir cabinets and a pivoting spruce screen. Noting that the screen can swing out to enlarge either the living or dining area, Genik says: "We created components that not only structured the space but also could be used in different ways at different times."
The architects also lifted the roof and added a clerestory window, flooding the center of the house with light and providing a view of the back-yard pear trees. Then they covered the old stone- and brick-faced fireplace with aluminum, using rivets to produce a textured effect. "We conceived it as a big prism," Daly says, "that would give off a soft glow and pick up color, depending on the time of day."
Other touches maintain the spare integrity of the house without sacrificing function or comfort. In the bedroom, elegantly understated cabinet panels of fir, ash and bird's-eye maple conceal blankets and clothing. In the guest bath, iridescent paint and a galvanized-metal pullman make the most of a small space. And the kitchen, while minimalist in appearance, is full of luxurious details, with glass and green granite countertops and a sandblasted-glass partition that sets off the dining area in style. Birch flooring from Finland warms every room.
Now that they have a sleek new house that's perfect for two but spacious enough for welcoming family and friends, the couple love their empty nest. Especially the doctor, who wakes in the morning and delights in the play of light on the sweeping interior: "At first, I was worried about all those angles, but the effect is sublime."