Space is the focus of our work. It is less about form and more about the energy and spirit of a space. We always look for the way to the greatest transformation with the fewest strokes – a design Haiku. The approach was one of simplification and amplification. Natural light rejuvenates the spaces, eliciting the harmony and serenity analogous to a cloud’s interior. An abstract desert cloud resting quietly on a hill was a metaphor for the project.
The transformation of the Winter Residence began as a simple request for a bathroom remodel. The owner Jerry Winter and his soon-to-be wife, Desi Rosenfield, were interested in creating bathrooms that matched the minimal and contemplative feel of the modern spas and boutique hotels they had visited in their travels. However, the spatial quality for which they were looking was in stark contrast to the haphazard flow and disparate finishes of their existing residence. The existing house was a modest 1940’s brick house with an awkward and poorly detailed 1990’s addition that trapped the original rooms, prevented daylight from entering the inner rooms and created uncomfortable spacing between the house and original kidney-shaped pool.
After understanding the level of design the owners wanted for the bathrooms, it was clear that the entire house would need to be transformed or the remaining un-remodeled areas would seem worse by comparison. Although we briefly contemplated a tear-down, in the end we opted to remodel and add-on a mere 35 square feet in the form of a new shower. One key to transforming the house was in the removal of the large, poorly built, load-bearing stone fireplace that dominated and bisected the main living spaces. Once the fireplace was demolished and the roof re-supported, the opening for the chimney became a perfect opportunity for a large skylight that now fills the once-trapped living spaces with daylight. Once the main living room was freed from the constraints of the bulky fireplace, it was possible to use some of that floor area to enlarge the master bathroom and closet. Applying the same approach as we had in the living room, we removed the dividing wall between the closet and bathroom to create an open and light filled space for dressing and bathing. Though the original seldom-used “front door” was on the south side of the living room, access to that entrance was incompatible with the natural sloped terrain and vehicular access to the site.
Responding to the natural flow toward the house on its hilltop site, we chose to keep the side entry as the primary entry and create a dramatic concrete and beach-pebble parking plaza between the new carport and the entry. The extension of the closet into what had been the living room created a focal wall for a large painting at the entry that helps turn the visitor’s gaze toward the stunning view of the city lights across the living spaces, exterior deck and long horizontal cantilevered concrete bench. The creation of several small courtyards and patios throughout the house give a feeling of connection to the exterior while providing shelter and privacy. The area that had once been an awkward circular dirt driveway adjacent to the study and guest room, became a serene courtyard with a fountain, small square of grass, a single tree, and a horizontal slot opening that perfectly frames the city skyline – a favorite yoga and meditation spot for the owner’s brother when he visits.
The inclusion of a tiny courtyard around the 35 square foot glass and tile shower addition on the east side of the house allows the bather to feel as if he or she is outside but still out of view. Also instrumental in creating the new spa-like feel for the house was the decision to remove the original kidney-shaped pool that was in need of repair and much too close to the house for comfortable outdoor gathering.
A new blue glass tiled and terrazzo-like plastered pool provides a dramatic and refreshing focus for the interior spaces. The pool, decks and small, raised grass bed provide an ideal area for entertaining with a view of the Catalina Mountains to the northeast. A pair of “floating” concrete bridges links the main deck to a master bedroom deck and linear outdoor fireplace.Architect: ibarra rosano design architects Project name: Winter Residence Photographer: Bill Timmerman