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Open House

A Site-Sensitive Addition Affords Many Windows on the World

October 04, 1998|MICHAEL WEBB

When Trice Koopman and her husband, Mark Freund, learned they were expecting twins, they decided to expand their 1940s modern house in Pacific Palisades and received some good advice from her mother: "Pick an architect who knows when to be quiet and listen to your ideas but who is confident enough to know his own mind," urged the veteran of 18 additions to the family home in Connecticut.

Koopman, a talent manager, and Freund, a digital film restorer, heeded her mother's words and chose Lorcan O'Herlihy, a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He had apprenticed with I.M. Pei and Steven Holl in New York City and was launching a residential practice in Los Angeles with then-partner Richard Warner. Like his clients, O'Herlihy saw the old house's potential, but his plan for an addition persuaded them to scrap most of the old structure and build a new, three-level complex to take full advantage of the wooded site and its mountain views.

Most of the house is concealed from the street by trees and a slope. The living areas--kitchen, dining, family and sitting rooms--flow into one another on the main floor, and a corridor leads to a library that opens onto a roof deck over the master bedroom suite below. Steps lead down to the family bedrooms and up to two guest rooms. Both the corridor and library are bathed in natural light from extensive use of Reglit, a translucent glass panel that had formerly been employed in commercial buildings in Europe. The sensual material diffuses light evenly while providing privacy for the owners, who are avid readers. A wall of shelves filled with their favorite books, set off by a tiny central window, is the library's focal point.

Koopman loved the quiet simplicity of the finished house but, upon moving back in after two years of construction, realized that her work was just beginning. O'Herlihy had installed built-in ash shelves and cabinets, leaving his clients to match their furnishings to the spirit of the architecture. "If you rush into it, you end up living with a compromise," says Freund, noting that the couple instead patiently scouted for just the right pieces. They also enlisted the help of designer Barbara Barry after seeing pictures of her cool, elegant interiors. Barry was already committed to larger projects but was so impressed with the house that she agreed to collaborate with Koopman, a room at a time.

Over the past six years, Barry has juxtaposed a few of her own designs with the owners' furnishings, stripping and reupholstering a few pieces to give them a fresh look and pulling everything together with sisal rugs.

"This house gave me an opportunity to develop ideas about indoor-outdoor living and adapt them to a challenging hillside lot," O'Herlihy says. "But most of all, it's about the principles of light and space and doesn't scream 'Look at me!' "

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