This newly constructed, 1850 square foot, two-story, single-family residence
located in the Venice Walk Streets, is the home of Yasi Vafai and Robert Thibodeau, principals in charge of duArchitects. Emphasizing efficiency, an open plan, indoor/outdoor living, and natural materials, this project follows the tradition of Southern California modern architecture. Horizontal surfaces, both floors and ceilings, are finished in wood and are separated from vertical surfaces, simple white plaster, by clerestory glass to give the spaces a feeling of lightness and warmth.
LOCATION / CONTEXT
The project is located on a walk street near trendy Abbot
Kinney Blvd. in Venice, California. Venice is a diverse beach
community with a long history as a home for artists and
alternative culture. Architects Frank Gehry, Morphosis, Fred
Fisher, and Konig Eisenberg built some of their earliest and
most important work here, and the Eames' original studio
and factory is here.
Often these projects stand side to side with smaller, modest
craftsman-style beach bungalows constructed mostly in the
The walk streets are unique because the lots front onto a
common, five-foot wide, pedestrian only, garden path.
Automotive access is from a service alley at the rear of the
property. I'm told this was done to save the cost of paving the
east-west streets. Because the houses front to a shared
garden path there is a lot of "hanging out" on front decks and
patios, and maybe even a heightened sense of community.
The flat, rectangular lot is a modest 4,000 square feet. The
area was originally coastal marsh, but was drained into a
series of canals at the turn of the century. Most of the canals
fell into disrepair, and were filled in and paved over. The few
that remain were restored and are in the adjacent
neighborhood to the south.
Southern California has an extremely mild climate. Because
of this, yards are used as extended living rooms to entertain
guests. The project was designed following the footprint of
the previous structure, to maintain as much rear yard as
The mild climate also allowed us to design the home with
large, custom, commercial windows, ideal to cool the house
in the summer. Prevailing winds come from the west (ocean)
in the afternoon.
The project was planned around two mature sycamore trees
at the front of the site. Although the abutting lots are already
developed with two-story homes, the trees were kept to
minimize the impact of adding a larger structure to the street.
The trees are deciduous and provide summer shade. They
also give the feeling, while in the upstairs bedrooms, of living
in a tree-house.
The neighborhood is zoned for single-family homes and
duplexes. Required side yards vary from 3 to 5 feet. The
height limit is 25-feet. There is no limitation to the square
footage of a project other than the limitations of the site.
There is currently no design review process for projects that
meet the zoning requirements.
CLIENT / PROGRAM
This project is the architect's home. The husband and wife
are partners-in-charge of a small, well-established,
architectural and design office in Venice. They have a two-year old son.
The home includes a master bedroom suite, a child's
bedroom, a guest bedroom, 2 3/4 baths, kitchen, dining
room and living room.
Indoor spaces expand to adjacent outdoor spaces via decks,
balconies and patios. The project was built on a tight budget
so the design had to be compact and efficient. The floor
levels and ceiling heights vary to maximize the perception of
This project is built in the tradition of Southern California
modern architecture. It emphasizes efficiency, an open plan,
indoor/outdoor living, and the use of natural, locally
produced materials for finishes. Horizontal surfaces, both
floors and ceilings, are finished in wood to separate them
visually from vertical surfaces, which are finished in simple
white plaster. Clerestory glass is used to "float" the roof
above the rest of the house. This gives the interiors a feeling
of lightness and warmth.
Because of the large openings and cantilevers, the building
is designed with a hybrid structural system including tube
steel set into deepened concrete footings. Wood and
plywood shear walls are used to counteract potential
earthquake generated lateral loads.
Our intent was to make this a "green" house by using
common sense and good design. Broad overhangs and
windows placed for cross ventilation are designed to provide
cooling in the summer. Formaldehyde free insulation is used
in the ceiling, walls and raised floors. Passive solar and a
radiant hydronic system are used to heat the house in the
Other sustainable features include: FSB certified lumber, low
e laminated glass, natural and mechanical ventilation, chalkbased
nontoxic paints, and a whole house water filtration
system. Louvers are used on the east, south, and west
elevations to minimize the amount of cooling required in the
The garden is primarily California Native plants, and includes
a drip irrigation system.
The project took six months to permit and twelve months to
build. The architect / owner acted as the general contractor.
COST PER SQUARE FOOT
This project cost 125 dollars per square foot. The project size
is 1850 square feet. The project is a 3 bedroom, 2 3/4 bath,
single family dwelling with a detached garage.