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Many of us have dreams of finding a career, building a business, or uncovering a loving relationship. Julie Piatt had dreams of a mountain. Not just any mountain, but one situated high in the Santa Monicas. Julie had found her dream mountain and after lengthy negations were able to purchase land nearby (that mountain) in order to build her vision of a home.As an interior designer, this homeowner had many ideas about what she wanted her home to look and feel like. Her inspiration was the visual expression (feel) of the many villas she had visited in the Tuscany region of Italy. Julie was not looking for a literal translation but instead envisioned a structure that emulated the unobstructed flow of these Italian country estates. “I had the vision and the concepts, but I did not have the knowledge to implement them. I had to set aside my ego to find experts that I could share my ideas with and then allow them the freedom to bring that vision to reality.”
The expert she found was Lorcan O’Herlihy, a Santa Monica based architect, whose design mission is to “engage in the operative layers of the urban landscape with respect to spatial, sensory, and experiential information.” The homeowner and the architect found a common language with which to translate the dream of a home into a living, breathing structure. A space that provides a sense of peace and serenity to all who visit.
The design of the house flows through two main structures that are tied together through the linear placement of pathways and deck(ings). The main living area is a multi-functional rectangle that connects a living room, family gathering room, and kitchen into one continuously moving space. There are no interior walls within this common area and most of the exterior walls are glass. For privacy, the walls on the street side are opaque, letting in copious amounts of light, but maintaining a sense of retreat from the energies of the road. The windows facing towards the mountains frame the serene landscape and can open fully, welcoming in the afternoon breeze.
The second main structure contains sleeping quarters and office space for the family. The master bedroom finds it's placed on the second floor and is accessible only from an exterior staircase. The commanding views of the mountainside provide a sense of being outside while still creating a sleeping chamber that radiates stillness and peace. Once again an open floor plan organizes the space with an inspiring bathtub dominating the room. This bathing area is open to the room and the homeowners feel that it creates a “communal sense of bathing. The kids will run in and out while I am taking a bath and it makes it feel like a family space.”
The two boys, Tyler and Trapper, have a great room of their own to share which is downstairs and contains everything two boys could dream of in a bedroom. The boys share a loft bunk bed built out of metal piping and underneath it is their zoo, currently comprised of two cats and a rabbit with other guests stopping in for an occasional visit.
The newest member of the family, Mathis, has an alcove nursery in the master bedroom. Space, originally designed as a meditation room, was quickly altered to become a nursery that is private, yet still connected to the master bedroom.
In addition to the two main structures, there is a separate design studio for Julie and a private yoga studio. The yoga studio has cork floors that provide a natural surface to practice on and the line between indoors and out is blurred by the use of large windows that can be opened up to invite nature in.This respect and appreciation for nature is a theme that permeates the property and was an integral part of the building process. Contractors where chosen on the basis of not only their skills but also on their ability to bring good energy into the project. Some of these choices went against practicality, but in the end, weaved together with the spiritual energy of the site.
In an effort to imbue the family’s spirit into the structure, each time there was a concrete pour, a blessing ceremony was held and objects from each of the family members were embedded into the concrete. These concrete pours from the foundation and floors of most of the structure and has been colored a deep brown to provide a grounding sensation for the living areas.
The outer living spaces have myriad uses from wooden decks used for yoga practice to a 75-foot lap pool, which outlines (delineates) the two living spaces while providing a dramatic water element to the landscape. The landscape itself is a mixture of herbs and flowering shrubs with influences that emulate the feel of the Mediterranean.
Most of the plants that provide the landscaping came from a very unique and creative source. Julie and her partner Richard Roll were married on the property and instead of the usual gifts, they registered with a nursery and most of the plants were chosen by friends and family in memory of the ceremony. Landscaping is still a work in progress with the homeowners, allowing for the natural ruggedness of the location to play a dominant character in the continuing design process.
The roof of the main structure is another truly unique use of outdoor space. This area is a usable living area and during the summer the homeowners have parties where they invite over friends and family and as it gets dark show films on the side of the secondary living structure. “We’ve shown everything from Felinni to John Waters and these rooftop parties are always a hit.”
“This sense of sharing our space is part of what makes this property so special. We feel that this property is a sanctuary and by being willing to take the risk and follow our hearts we have found a space that allows us to live in harmony and be the guardians of this land.”