Ready for prime time
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 1/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
From surviving on a tropical island to surviving a first date, the world of the small screen is increasingly colliding with the world of reality. And nowhere more so than Los Angeles—like when a top-tier TV executive needs a multitasking, modern pool pavilion to complete his otherwise traditional Beverly Hills estate.
Looking for an architecture firm, the TV exec consulted the namesake principal of Melinda Ritz Interiors, which had previously completed the design of the estate's main house and also happens to be the set decorator for Will & Grace and Good Morning, Miami. Ritz immediately recommended Design Bureau, whose young principals, David Montalba and John Umbanhowar, are the architects behind a series of contemporary residences and an award-winning L.A. bridal boutique.
In comparison, what could be simpler than building a concrete-and-glass box with proportions identical to those of an existing 17-by-40-foot pool? Plenty, if you're dealing with a problematic upslope site. And, says Umbanhower, "The challenge is the same as with everything contemporary: no room for error."
As a prelude to construction, Design Bureau confronted hillside procession. They installed 75 concrete steps and six sections of 6- to 12-foot-high retaining walls to form a grassy terraced area between the residence and the future pavilion. Behind the pavilion site, the architects placed lower retaining walls to mark the limit of the 4-acre property.
Landscaping translated into architecture. "The main idea," says Montalba, "was to have one of the retaining walls pierce the house"—another take on the indoor-outdoor archetype that's held so dear in Southern California. This 80-foot-long plane, faced in stucco outdoors, continues inside to serve as a solid counterpart to the pavilion's three glazed elevations, draped in gauzy cotton. Further exterior-interior blurring occurs at ground level, with ashlar-cut sandstone pavers for both terraces and floor.
As the client had several functions in mind for the 680-square-foot pavilion—screenings, dinner parties, wine tastings, and visiting guests were all to play a part—Design Bureau and Ritz prioritized flexibility. Lightweight furniture forms loose seating zones, while a Murphy bed, a wine refrigerator, and a stainless-steel sink are built in. Along the scene-stealing back wall, glass mosaic tile runs between upper and lower walnut cabinetry.
Meals are often open-air affairs. The rear retaining wall provides a sense of enclosure, and an integral fireplace heightens the room association. Opposite the dining terrace, up a flight of concrete stairs, an outdoor dressing room screened by white nylon curtains completes the ensemble. Changing alfresco never felt so uninhibited.