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In the Hollywood hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, known for prominent houses (and celebrity residents), a small one-story, windowless, white-plastered steel-framed volume emerges eerily from a grassy knoll.

“I conceived the house as land art,” says Monika Haefelfinger, the Swiss architect who founded XTEN architects in 2000 in L.A. with her late husband, Austin Kelly. “We design strong sculptural forms at the scale of the landscape.” Along the street-facing wall, a stainless-steel door pivots open to a small garden. There, stepping-stones over a shallow black terrazzo reflecting pool lead to a front door of glass with slender steel framing set into floor-to-ceiling glazing.


At the entrance vestibule, a pivoting glass door set within a glazed wall opens into the public spaces, ethereally illuminated by a coffered skylight. Photo © Steve King

Once inside, you find a travertine wall divides the living room from the family/dining/kitchen area. You are on an experiential journey: as you turn left, a view opens up of the green canyons to the west, and the city and Pacific Ocean to the south. Overhead, the 12-foot-high ceiling is defined by a luminous grid of wood-framed and metal-paneled coffered skylights: tinted glass and PVC membranes reduce solar intake while providing natural light by day; LEDs make them glow at night. “The filtered quality of light required many mock-ups,” Haefelfinger says.


The living quarters wrap around the pool, and have views of the surrounding landscape. Photo © Steve King

Flanking these public spaces are four volumes containing the main bedroom suite, two bedrooms, and a home office. A skylighted switchback stair takes you down to a home theater, bar, and a gym and bedroom sharing a patio—plus the garage. Now you understand how the house can be 10,000 square feet with no clue of that scale from the outside. As Haefelfinger says, “Our work is to create things that are very simple but very harmonious. It’s about reduction and refinement.”

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