It’s not often that a house tour begins on the roof. But as you step past the entry gate of the Barrington residence in Los Angeles’s Brentwood neighborhood, you find yourself facing several artificial-turf-covered steps leading to the structure’s summit, which boasts a commanding view of the Getty Center, the mountaintop museum complex designed by Richard Meier. “This vista wasn’t accessible at all from the original house,” says architect Eric Rosen, who designed its surprising, multiterraced replacement for a couple and their two children.
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A combination of site, context, and the work of a 1970s conceptual artist inspired Rosen to develop the new house’s zigzagging form and counterintuitive massing. As the steep lot was cleared, exceptional sight lines to the east and north emerged. Rosen saw an opportunity to cut a deep east–west channel into the hillside to permit a view clear through the structure, echoing Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Splitting,” a photo series documenting an abandoned house the artist had sliced through with a chainsaw. The channel became the floor plan’s organizing principle, and its placement allowed Rosen to reuse existing pool footings and a retaining wall running roughly north–south.
The new pool and its surrounding decks, perched on the northern portion of the property, pinwheel outward from the roof, counterbalancing the new three-story dwelling carved into the hillside. These outdoor spaces step down gradually in elevation to meet the house’s top floor on its fully glazed east side. Their staggered heights and crisp orthogonal motifs echo both the land’s rugged contours and the massing of the Getty Center on top of the mountain to the north.
The house’s three floors were also shaped by terrain and function. On the west, street-facing elevation, the main entry to the top floor follows the line of the channel cut: a gentle descent down floating concrete steps to a glass door that opens onto a skylit vestibule. This transitional space separates two zones: a generous kitchen and the family room that flows seamlessly into the adjacent deck, and a more intimately scaled dining room, bar nook, and living room. Balancing the daylight that spills indoors, dark-toned ceilings and floors in mahogany and concrete create a welcoming sense of enclosure.
From the channel-cut area of the top floor, a handsome cantilevered concrete stair descends one flight, ending at a gathering room. The master suite, kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms, and guest suite spill into this area, giving the family and guests a multipurpose hangout spot that’s secluded from the open, public rooms above. House guests also enjoy an outdoor sitting nook off the guest bedroom, at the bottom of a light well where two deep, board-formed concrete walls meet. The third and lowest level contains living quarters for household help, and a playroom that opens onto a terraced backyard. It’s from the yard that the stucco- and zinc-clad assembly becomes fully visible. While the interiors maintain an intimate, domestic scale, from this vantage point, the 9,500-square-foot structure looms large on the hilltop.
Rosen is quick to credit top-notch subcontractors for their painstaking work on the challenging site, including a concrete sub who carried the architect’s physical model of the cantilevered stair in his truck as he figured out how to sequence the pours. But the key project role here was Rosen’s dual one as architect and general contractor, which gave him full responsibility to build the bold structure he designed. Construction began simultaneously on the house’s northern and southern edges, moving inward toward the channel—a risky technique, but one that would enable the house to take shape as envisioned. “There came a point where we had to jump in, trusting that all our work would pay off,” says Rosen. “When the two sides came together within a ⅛-inch tolerance, we all breathed a sigh of relief.” For a house so obviously inspired by and sprung forth from its site, it was a singular achievement.
Eric Rosen Architects
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Lesley Graham - Senior Project Designer/ Manager (not a registered architect)
Architect of record:
Luis Ortega Interiors
Structural: David H. Lau & Associates, Inc.
Landscape: Design Studio MA
Ely Company with Eric Rosen Architects as Construction Manager
Joe Fletcher Photography, 415-216-7948
Concrete foundations and retaining walls with primary steel frame and wood framing infill
Metal panels: VM Zinc
Metal/glass curtain wall: Sun Valley Skylights Windows & Doors
Precast concrete: Decks: custom concrete tiles by Concrete Wave
Wood: Decks: IPE tiles by Tile Tech Pavers
Moisture barrier: Carlisle Coatings & Waterproofing
Other cladding unique to this project: Wall Cladding: Custom Marble
Metal: VM Zinc
Other: Roofing Membrane: Fibertite
Metal frame: Sun Valley Skylights Windows & Doors
Glass: Exterior Doors/ Windows: Sungate
Skylights: Custom by Sun Valley Skylights Windows & Doors with Sungate glazing
Entrances: Metal frame: Sun Valley Skylights Windows & Doors
Wood doors: Interior Doors: American Building Supply, Inc.
Sliding doors: Exterior Sliding Doors: Western Window System
Locksets: Swing Doors: FSB
Pulls: Cabinet Pulls: Alno, Inc. & Hafele
Security devices: ADT
Other special hardware: Pivot Door Hardware: Dorma
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: custom
Paints and stains: Wall & Ceiling Paint: Benjamin Moore
Wall coverings: Powder Room: Innovations USA
Paneling: custom wood
Floor and wall tile: Kitchen Walls: custom marble
Carpet: Lower Floor: Masland Contract
Special interior finishes unique to this project: walls: stucco by Merlex
Interior ambient lighting: LED Cove Lights: Revolt Lighting
Downlights: Halo LED
Exterior: Sconces: Hevi Lite Inc
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Vantage
Bathroom Fixtures: Hansgrohe
Energy management or building automation system: Vantage
Photovoltaic system: SunPower
Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: Solar Thermal Panels for Pool Heating: Vitosol Collectors with Vitocell Tank
Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: Motorized Shades: Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.