Site size: 3.3 acres

Project size: 650 square feet

Program: The clients—two attorneys—commissioned an addition to their residence for use as a satellite home office. Despite the large residential property, code requirements limited the two-story development to a relatively tight building envelope at the foot of a steep hillside. The program’s double-height space allows partners and their staff to work either together or remotely. A fireside area serves private client meetings, and ample shelving offers storage for legal documents and office equipment. An elevator provides easy accommodation for clients as well as circulation between the library, powder room, and master bedroom on the lower level, and the media room on the upper level; a new hallway with skylights separates the Case Room from the master bedroom and bathroom, and brings in daylight and access to the exterior. For daytime and evening events, a landscaped exterior patio with built-in benches, a fireplace, fountain, and outdoor kitchen were added.

Location: Serra Retreat, Malibu, California

Solution: Clerestory windows capture the north light at the foot of the hillside, diffusing light, orienting the space, and framing views up the hill. The massing of the Case Room, designed as a series of blocks obliquely sliced and assembled in a descending sequence in section, transitions in plan from a vestibule threshold with the existing house to a transposition of the existing exterior wall geometry. The addition is both symmetrical and asymmetrical, and aligns with existing orthogonal and diagonal wall geometries. The serial, symmetrical roof gables, which step down one foot at each progression from the maximum city-defined height limit, align in plan with the major programmatic divisions of the space. The new second-floor landing adjacent to the Case Room, flanked by an elevator to the northwest and clerestory light well to the southeast, frames simultaneous views both into the double-height room and above its roof toward the hillside. The interplay of reflected daylight on the folding ceiling surfaces throughout the day provides a gently modulating, diffused top lighting for contemplative work.

Construction and materials: The structure is steel with wood framing, reinforced concrete footings and foundation walls.The exterior has vertical grain cedar siding, a standing seam metal roof, thermally insulated glazing with low-e coating, and French doors with electrochromatic (switchable) glass panels. The interior features painted drywall with whitewashed and sealed hardwood paneling and millwork, and slate tiles and hardwood for flooring.

Additional Information

Completion date: December 2017

Gross square footage: Approx. 650 square feet of new construction, plus interior remodeling

Total project cost: withheld

Total construction cost: withheld

Client: Suzelle Smith and Don Howarth



Geoffrey von Oeyen Design
Los Angeles, California
Phone: (310) 902-0075
Instagram: @gvodesign


Architect of record:

von Oeyen Architects



Parker-Resnick Structural Engineering

General contractor:

G&H Constructors, Inc.



Kyle Monk,, (415) 810-7754



Landscape: Major Landscape Co.


Energy Consultant: Title 24 Data Corporation





Structural System

Steel frame, wood frame, reinforced concrete
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: RSR Steel Fabrication

Exterior Cladding

Masonry: Cement plaster planter walls.

Wood: Stained vertical grain T&G cedar siding by G&H Constructors, Inc.


Metal: Standing seam Rheinzink with high-temperature self-sealing underlayment and Air-Z mat.


Wood frame: Interior windows: vision (clear), frosted (translucent), and mirror finish glazing.

Metal frame: Fleetwood with clear annodized aluminum frames. Custom exterior wood detailing at aluminum frames.

Glass: Thermally insulated glass unit (IGU) with low-emissivity coating. French doors with electrochromatic (switchable) glass panels.

Skylights: Thermally insulated glass unit (IGU) with low-emissivity coating.


Wood doors: Whitewashed and sealed solid core wood door frames with electrochromatic switchable glass laminate by Smart Glass.

Special doors: Elevator doors by T.L. Shields and Associates.


Locksets: Emtek

Pulls: Emtek

Other special hardware: Push-latch cabinetry hardware installed by Wood Trends for G&H Constructors.

Interior Finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom whitewashed and sealed oak millwork with built-in LED puck and strip lighting. Integrated legal file drawers, equipment storage, and appliances. Millwork built by Wood Trends for G&H Constructors.

Paints and stains: Behr paint applied to smooth gypsum ceiling and walls surfaces.

Paneling: Custom whitewashed and sealed oak millwork by Wood Trends for G&H Constructors.

Floor and wall tile: Natural slate tile flooring used in Case Room interior, vestibule, powder room, patio landing and steps. Natural white oak flooring used in the library, hallway, and media room.

Raised flooring: Remote control mechanized roller shading for privacy and daylight control on the two second-floor interior windows.

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Remote control mechanized roller shading for privacy and daylight control on the two second-floor interior windows.


Fixed seating: Custom built-in banquet seating in the second floor media room, as well as custom exterior benches.

Chairs: John Makepeace OBE (UK); Custom chairs made from English oak, polished aluminum, and leather

Tables: John Makepeace OBE (UK); Custom table made from English oak, polished aluminum
Upholstery: Custom curtains and bench cushions, exterior and interior; J&L Draperies


Interior ambient lighting: Recessed LED strip lighting built into the top and bottom of the millwork shelving. Indirect ceiling illumination from millwork mounted directional lights by C.L.A. Electric (CLA); Recessed LED strip lighting built into the hallway skylights by CLA

Downlights: Recessed ceiling downlights focused on conference table and seating area by CLA

Exterior: Exterior wall sconces by CLA

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Dimming system for all project lights by CLA


Elevators/escalators: Hydraulic elevator by T.L. Shield and Assoc., Inc.
Accessibility provisions: C.R. Laurence Glass Guardrail System


Other unique products that contribute to sustainability: North-facing clerestory daylighting reduces solar heat gain while reducing the demand for artificial lighting; Mechanical roller shades for daylight control and privacy; Passive ventilation (convection) in chimney shaft.
Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: Integrated AV low-voltage data ports and built-in audio speakers in the fireplace wall and ceiling planes; Switchable privacy glass; Custom exterior fountain; Interior and exterior gas fireplaces.