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An Architect Takes Creative License Building an Airy Home for His Parents

June 01, 2003|Michael Webb

David Chun is the latest in a long line of architects from Charles Gwathmey to Robert Venturi who have launched their own firms by building houses for their parents. Hanjin and Yoonhee Chun, who moved to L.A. from Korea 20 years ago and are now retired, requested a spacious, light-filled family compound to replace their dark, cave-like bungalow on a leafy site in Santa Monica. Hanjin has a passion for gardens and Yoonhee fantasized about a fairy-tale European house with a steeply pitched roof. David, their younger son, drew on his experience of working with Richard Meier and the local design firm of Marmol/Radziner to give them a house that is uncompromisingly modern but also warm and open to nature.

"My parents were very involved in laying out the plan, and there were many discussions on how the house would be used, but they had faith in me and gave me a lot of creative freedom," David says.

Rather than build the 4,900-square-foot home in the center of the lot and use the leftover space as a yard, the architect planned the landscaping first. He blocked out a rock garden with a koi pond and waterfall to the west, a dry Zen garden to the north, and a lawn in front--and designed the house to fit within it. This meant splitting the house into an H-plan with a two-story bedroom wing at the front and a lofty, stepped living area to the rear. The two wings are linked by a glass-walled sitting room. Outside, an expansive deck serves as an outdoor room for entertaining.

From the street, the house is concealed behind an austere two-story facade. The second-floor apartment for Peter Chun, the elder son, is clad in redwood; below it is the first-floor master suite and guest room. A narrow entryway contains a 9-foot-high stainless steel door that pivots open to reveal the living spaces, which have accordion doors leading to the redwood deck. Maple floors, cherry paneling, redwood beams and straight-grain Douglas fir doors and window shutters contrast with textured concrete walls.

The kitchen, with its cherry cabinets and raised slate floor, is open on all sides with views into the breakfast room, sunken family room and dining room, while behind the open hearth, with its stainless steel hood, a small gallery opens onto a deck facing the water garden. The roof, supported on slender steel columns, extends out to shade the water garden from the afternoon sun.

Though the furnishings are Western, the spirit is Asian. In the master bedroom, cherry paneling, walls draped with gauze, a Noguchi lamp, low bentwood Italian armchairs and a sleek platform bed lend a feeling of serenity. Throughout the house, interior designer Jamie Bush used modern classics such as the M stool and Scandinavian modern dining chairs by Bruno Hansen and Hans Wegner. "The furniture is a natural extension of the house," Bush says. "There's an emphasis on the floor--negative space is as important as the objects within it."

In the family room, the colors are dark and the sofas hug the ground. The living room, brightly lit from either side and from an oculus in the ceiling, is pale-toned, and delicate legs make the furniture appear to float.

"The house was an act of blind faith--for me as much as for my parents," David says. "However much experience you've had working for others, it's scary to go out on your own. To know that my parents are happy living there, and to get positive reactions from people who see the house, has boosted my confidence and gives me something to show to future clients."


Resource Guide

David Chun, Chun Studio, Venice, (310) 314-1817; Bush Interiors, Venice, (310) 314-2247. Hans Wegner hoop chair, available by special order through Denmark 50, Los Angeles, (323) 650-5222. Walnut Plinth table, $1,680, from Shelter, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, (323) 937-3221 or (310) 451-3536; mid-century Curtis Jere wall sculpture, available by special order through Room 107, Pasadena, (626) 432-4867. Golden Bear suede ottomans, $490 each, at Shelter.

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