A Los Angeles house shapes the careers of architect David Chun and interior designer Jamie Bush
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
You can always count on Mom and Dad, especially if you're a promising young architect—just ask Charles Gwathmey. Four decades later, another brilliant newcomer, David Chun, has followed suit. Taking time off from the Harvard Design School , he built his parents a 5,000-square-foot house.
"My mom started talking about European villas and gingerbread houses," recalls Chun, whose modernist orientation had been shaped by internships with Richard Meier & Partners and Marmol Radziner + Associates. Chun Studio's concrete-based scheme didn't get anywhere at first, but his parents took a leap of faith once he suggested adding abundant wood. Korean Buddhists, they liked the peaceful, meditative atmosphere promised by the enhanced environment.
The Los Angeles house's two-story H configuration, built around a large courtyard, also acknowledges Chun's father's passion for gardening. One side of the H contains the master suite below, Chun's bedroom, a game room, and an apartment for his brother's family above. The other side accommodates the double-height family room, kitchen, and dining room. Joining the two sides is a living room topped by a sundeck.
At street front, an austere concrete-and-redwood block and 9-foot-high steel double doors present a visual jolt amid the Santa Monica neighborhood's Mediterranean-style houses and traditional cottages. The severity softens behind, with a layered glass-and-wood pavilion sheltered by a gently curved roof of galvanized steel. Runs of doors open up the living and family rooms to a central deck with a built-in barbecue pit.
"Inside, I referred to Asian architecture to develop a language my parents could relate to," Chun explains of his materials palette: maple and slate flooring, cherry cabinetry and millwork, redwood ceiling sectors. He also devised an interior landscape of interconnected spaces defined by changes in level and flooring, not walls. Except in the dining room, with its intimate temple quality. Enclosed by two walls of concrete and two walls of taupe-painted plasterboard, the room "caters to how we interact," says Chun.
To handle furnishings, Chun called upon another Marmol Radziner alumnus, Bush Interiors principal Jamie Bush, and the two hit it off immediately. "We share an interest in the relationship between Western modernism and Eastern sensibilities, between materials and form," says Bush.
As an ordering scheme, Bush opted for a light-gray living room palette and outfitted the space in leggy pieces of furniture. Italian modernists Monteverdi-Young's 1970's mahogany cocktail table, newly lacquered white, coexists with Edward Wormley's jaunty side table, Hans Wegner's groovy Hoop chair, Jørgen Møller's bent cherry plywood stacking stools, and an 8-foot-long custom sofa covered in stone-colored chenille. By contrast, the family room's furniture hugs the ground, and the color palette is predominantly charcoal, tying in to the concrete hearth and stainless-steel chimney. Stools upholstered in paprika suede echo the ceiling's redwood.
Influenced by the dining room's solemnity, Bush selected a contemporary walnut table and Aksel Kjaernulf chairs in teak and oak. But a 1965 burnished-steel sculpture by Curtis Jeré breaks up the gravitas. Bush infused the master suite with levity as well: Note the scrim of ivory crinkled polyester à la Rei Kawakubo. An Isamu Noguchi floor lamp and vintage Italian bent-rattan chairs round out the cross-cultural composition.
Bush and Chun's multicultural partnership had major career repercussions, too. Trained as an architect, Bush had become increasingly drawn to interiors as a wake-up call to his talents. "This house was pivotal," he explains. "I realized it was easier for me to problem-solve in an existing structure than on a blank canvas," says Bush, who's now busy with a Los Angeles shop for fashion designer Tracy Feith.