Santiago Ortiz comes to Los Angeles by way of Colombia, where he was born, and Providence, where he studied architecture and fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. L.A.'s buzzy design scene and perennial indooroutdoor lifestyle were among the draws.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 10/1/2011 1:48:00 PM
Santiago Ortiz comes to Los Angeles by way of Colombia, where he was born, and Providence, where he studied architecture and fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design. L.A.'s buzzy design scene and perennial indooroutdoor lifestyle were among the draws. So was his first job, at his cousin's firm. By the time he was ready to launch Ortiz Mexia Projects, he proclaimed he never wanted to leave.
Like many budding architects, one of his first projects was a house for family. His own. The 1927 bungalow he'd been sharing with his wife, Mimi Wheeler, and their young son was at overflow-with just two closets, plus a baby on the way. When Ortiz found a lush site, large enough for a swimming pool and two ancillary structures, he knew he was home.
His first aim was to build a house embodying a "sense of responsibility for our environment and our future," he begins. Of course, timelessness entered into the equation, and he doesn't shy away from citing beauty as another consideration. To these factors, we add contextual correctness. The two-story, 4,700-squarefoot house is patently contemporary, but it speaks with a reticence appropriate to a part of Venice dominated by modest houses dating to the 1940's.
As in Latin America, entry is via a veranda. This one is between the house proper and a "room of her own" for Wheeler. On the other side of the house, beyond the pool, stands the building that contains the garage and a home office for Ortiz. All three structures are clad in a Brazilian hardwood that's Forest Stewardship Council-certified, like the wood used inside.
Once visitors get over the extraordinary reflective red Anish Kapoor sculpture mounted just inside the front door, they realize that the house-unlike many contemporary counterparts-has a proper vestibule. From here, progression leads past a floating stairway to the kitchen and living-dining area. They may be one open space, but they're not loft-cool. This is a warm family affair overflowing with elements that are clearly designed but not overly design-y.
Most striking are the gluelam beams-the cost for steel, Ortiz's original choice, turned out to be prohibitive. "China was gobbling it up
for the Olympics," he recalls. Even the structural steel behind the clay-finished walls was a stretch. Luckily, the massive beams not only fit the budget but also counterbalanced the scale of a 47-foot-long room with a 12-foot ceiling.
Flooring is radiant-heated throughout. For an alternative to a monolithic concrete slab, he turned to an artisan friend for handmade concrete tiles resembling flagstones. "He designed two sets of molds, one for the public space and a smaller version for bathrooms," Ortiz explains.
The kitchen also bears note. "We're a family that cooks three meals a day. And we entertain," Wheeler chimes in.
Ortiz opted for lower cabinetry in plastic laminate and a counter in quartz composite-nothing too precious. Exceptions are the overhead cabinets, refrigerator and freezer fronts, oven surround, and island top, all walnut, and the quartet of Hans Wegner stools that Ortiz fell in love with while planning the kitchen. To buy them, he sold his Audi. Its warranty was up anyway.
Down the hall from the kitchen, the guest bathroom derives largely from Ortiz and Wheeler's Japanese honeymoon, much of it spent examining rural design. He knew that someday he'd replicate the cypress soaking tubs he saw there-when "someday" arrived, he had the tub made in Japan. The glass mosaic tile on the bathroom walls was selected for its deep blue color and high recycled content.
Upstairs, the master bath is generous, 180 square feet, and skylit. A wet zone, on a platform, boasts a tub large enought to fit four people. Bath time, Ortiz confirms, is family time.
Photography by Art Gray
CARL HANSEN & SON: STOOLS (KITCHEN).
BULTHAUP: CUSTOM CABINETRY.
CAESARSTONE: COUNTER MATERIAL.
DANIEL OGASSIAN: CUSTOM FLOOR TILE (KITCHEN, ENTRY, LIVING, DINING AREAS, MASTER BATHROOM).
DORNBRACHT: SINK FITTINGS (KITCHEN); TUB FITTINGS, SHOWER FITTINGS (BATHROOMS).
ALTRUWOOD: CUSTOM TREADS (STAIRWAY); FLOORING (HALL).
DE LA ESPADA: CHAIRS, SIDE TABLE (LIVING AREA).
EMPIRIC: CUSTOM SOFA.
MODERNICA: COCKTAIL TABLE.
FORT STREET STUDIO: CUSTOM RUG.
TECTA THROUGH DESIGN WITHIN REACH: CHAIRS (DINING AREA).
ROOM & BOARD: TABLE.
NICHE MODERN LIGHTING THROUGH A+R: PENDANT FIXTURES.
ZUMA: TUB (MASTER BATHROOM).
TREND: PLATFORM TILE (MASTER BATHROOM); WALL TILE (BATHROOMS).
BARTOK DESIGN: CUSTOM TUB (GUEST BATHROOM).
TORTOISE GENERAL STORE: STOOL, BOWL.
FLEETWOOD WINDOWS & DOORS: CUSTOM WINDOWS, DOORS.
VENETIAN PARADISE: LANDSCAPING CONSULTANT.
C.W. HOWE PARTNERS: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER.
BANKS WELDING: METALWORK.