The owners of this home in Westlake Village near Los Angeles wished for their home to be fresh, modern and comfortable with a distinctive style. They also wanted it to be conducive to entertaining and to take advantage of the extraordinary hilltop setting.
Our solution was to take the simplicity of modernist design and merge it with exotic and texturally rich elements from tribal Africa and other non-western cultures. The result is an environment that is clean and modern but with more warmth and intrigue than is often found in modernist design.
The existing structure with its clean lines and reflecting pools clearly is inspired by early modernist examples like the "Barcelona Pavilion" created by Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition in Spain (an exhibit from Germany). Our use of a simple white color scheme emphasizes the modernist influence, as does a day bed in the style of the famous "Barcelona Couch" created for the same 1929 exhibition by van der Rohe (see an example in the next slide).
In the master bedroom as well as in other areas throughout the house, access and exposure to the outdoors is maximized, another influence of modernist designs such as in this home by Richard Neutra. The presence of another van der Rohe inspired day bed also gives a modernist feel. However, as you can see, the Schoos environment includes more exotic textures, natural objects, richer colors and points of interest to soften the utilitarian plainness of the Neutra design.
As in the "Glass House" by Philip Johnson, another classic modernist example, the line between indoors and out is blurred as much as possible. We took this a step further by using similar or almost identical finishes both inside and outside, including flooring and upholstery. These Queen Anne chairs are typically considered for only indoor use, yet we have used them on the outdoor pool deck, enhancing the indoor feel.
Another method of bringing the outdoors in and the indoors out was to use consistent floor materials. The same tile that greets you at the front door moves through the house and out onto the pool deck on the other side. The floorplan also encourages maximum flow by being open, allowing sightlines to the outdoors from every point in the common area.
To add texture and unique appeal, original art was commissioned from Thomas Schoos (our founder) to greet guests in the entry court. This serves several purposes. First, having paintings in what is essentially and outdoor area reinforces the indoor/outdoor feeling of the house from first arrival (see slide #1). Second, the art is modern, which fits with the modernist influences. But third, the art uses earth tones to give a warmer, less stark feel. The exotic appeal is enhanced by including references to tribal African artifacts such as the sword and round object shown here. (The round object is actually antique currency!)
More of these tribal currency artifacts are found in the fireplace which opens to two sides of a wall connecting adjoining living areas. Exotic, earthy elements such as these add a rich cultural relevance and "realness" to the modern design, as well as serving as conversation pieces.
More African connections exist in the form of exotic animal skins used in these rugs, upholsteries and wall art. These natural, organic and ornate textures contrast with the colder modern elements such as the geometric metal art piece and the globe lamps.
Finally, other natural elements such as plants, trees and tables fashioned from weathered wood add warmth and color to the modern textures such as metal and white materials.
Overall, the combination of modern design, exotic cultural elements and natural textures creates a mood that is clean and fresh without being cold or mechanical. It brings together the best of modernism with a softer, richer and more intriguing world view.