Carla Ridge, Beverly Hills, California. Whipple Russell Architects.
“Guests coming up the front steps of this hilltop home are met with a Carrera marble sculpture by Richard Erdman, titled Serenade, selected by our clients, whose devotion to the process made this an especially joyful collaboration. Also part of the team were Robert Wright and Jason York of McCormick and Wright, who did the interior design. There are a lot of details and non-standard finishes in this house – personal taste, not trendy taste.
The dark-grey rough stacked-slate exterior is capped with crisply contrasting white stucco. A pivot-style all-glass front door and surround welcomes you to the modern West Coast lifestyle, framing a view through the house to the hills beyond.
The central open volume topped by a skylight is Marc Whipple’s modern take on the traditional courtyard. He took the courtyard, and sunk it so that all the below-grade rooms open off of it, transforming what normally would be a dark basement into a lower floor with light and views – the anti-basement. The large skylight pulls the dramatic focus upwards as well, so this vertical volume contains both dynamics seen while crossing the glass bridge.
For Marc, this central volume is the magic that allows, “A visual connection along different axes within the house, reminders of where you are going and where you have been. The idea is that right outside your bedroom you can catch a corner of the kitchen, or see into the family room to say goodnight to someone. In this design you can be downstairs next to the theater and see someone near the front door, or be practicing your golf swing, and in a few steps see who is up in the kitchen. Absent this strong design drive of the central volume, the family connection is lost.
Surrounding this sunny atrium are the kitchen, living, and dining areas. Just off the living room, there are a few steps down to an intimate library seating area with a built-in bar cabinet, all open to the central volume and an adjoining home office. At the back of the house two walls of glass give the living space panoramic views across the pool and patio to the slopes and greenery of Beverly Hills.
Floating stairs lead down to the bottom level – or you can take the elevator of polished mirrored stainless-steel at right of the foyer. In addition to connecting the house visually, the below-grade space was needed to fulfill the design program. “We like clients to give us a list of spaces they require,” says Marc. “Which in this case included an elevator, library, office, theater, gym, salon, golf simulation area and roof terrace – there didn’t appear at the outset a way to fit all of this on the property and still meet building height restrictions.” So, a complete subterranean level seemed a natural solution, along with doing portions of the house split-level – the library is down a few steps allowing the roof terrace to fit above it. The guest bedrooms are up a few steps, creating a more private space, and also giving those extra feet to the garage below. Three dimensionally, it’s a complicated design. When the clients saw our solution, adds Marc, “Their grasp of volume, juxtaposition, and axes was immediate.”
The downstairs courtyard area, lit by the skylight, includes seating and wine storage. The surrounding rooms include a full gym and weight room, a salon with massage table and full bath with steam shower, a golf simulator, and an 8-seat home theater. This is a high-tech house. Not only does the home theater have state-of-the-art projection and sound, the car park features a turntable that identifies each car, rotating to a preset angle, enabling it to exit with ease.”
Photo credit: Jason Speth