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Sleeping Capsule

Angles and Arcs Take Shape in an Unconventional Master Bedroom Suite

April 21, 2002|EMILY YOUNG

When Sandy and Barry Pressman got married 10 years ago, she sold her home and moved in with him. His two-story contemporary house, her Abstract Expressionist art--that was the arrangement until the Pacific Palisades couple decided to create a space they could call theirs.

Specifically, they wanted an airy bedroom with an ocean view, a bathroom large enough for both of them, a comfortable place to read and--why not?--his-and-hers walk-in closets. It took time to work out the structural details, but this past fall architect Todd Conversano finished fitting everything on the Pressmans' wish list into a boldly unconventional master bedroom suite that's part space capsule, part luxury cocoon.

A young Los Angeles designer with an eclectic streak--"I generate forms from different references," he says--Conversano has drawn inspiration from sources ranging from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" to the work of his former professor and boss, Eric Owen Moss. But at the heart of his vision was his own fascination with flat planes and curved volumes. "The circle was an organizing element for the bedroom, a way to define the sleeping space. Though I'd been thinking about cones for a long time, the truncated conical piece came later," he explains. "I played with the shapes on the computer to make sure we could get a bed in there. After that, it was just working out the details."

Outside, Conversano clad the second-floor addition in sheet-metal shingles and rough-textured stucco as both contrast and complement to the rest of the building. "I didn't want it to look entirely foreign," he says. The shingles reappear indoors at the entrance to the bedroom, just one of several instances where materials are repeated for visual and tactile continuity.

Playing off the stucco, smooth-troweled gray plaster highlights the intersection of elliptical and square walls around the bed. Aluminum shelves store books in the mini-library, magazines under the nightstands and snow globes above the towel racks. Stained birch paneling sheathes an angled wall behind the television and a long corridor leading to the closets and dressing area. While the balcony rail traces the arc of the bedroom's circumference, Conversano punctured curved walls with windows and double doors to expose and accentuate the structure's mass and transparency. "The light and shadows are beautiful," Sandy says. "There's a Mayten tree that's become an integral part of our bedroom. It's like a curtain so we don't need to drape the room." For the bathroom, Conversano placed basins on the diagonal in the soapstone-topped island, then suspended medicine cabinets from the ceiling so the Pressmans can see and talk to each other as they prepare for the day. Limestone tiles laid out in an uninterrupted brick pattern span the width of the room, from shower enclosure to open tub. Skylights and clerestory windows invite sun and garden greenery.

At 1,000 square feet, the remodel is almost twice the size of the Pressmans' old quarters, giving them space to unwind in style. Barry, a radiologist in charge of imaging at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, enjoys the built-in flat-screen TV and custom sound system. Sandy, a busy volunteer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood, surrounds herself with favorite paintings and sculptures.

"When we're up here," she says, "we can leave the stress of the day behind. It's very calming. And it's uniquely ours."

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