L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Architecture

L.A. architect's mission: Build a better animal shelter

South L.A. Animal Care Center Gallery When Rania Alomar was hired to design a new animal shelter for the city of Los Angeles, the architect was given specific instructions: Create a temporary home for animals that increases their comfort, and by virtue of the shelter's design, makes people want to adopt a pet.

But can architecture really reduce euthanasia when the city's shelters are filled to capacity? Yes, Alomar said, if it’s a facility that people want to visit, a place where “you want to come in and feel like you are in a happy space.”

Rania AlomarThe $9 million South Los Angeles Animal Care Center is scheduled to open next month with 270 kennels, and the hope is that the facility will challenge the outdated perception of the animal shelter as dismal dog pound.

It’s a design experiment from an architect who has learned from experience -- designing an animal wellness center, an animal emergency room in Long Beach and a German Shepherd rescue facility in Santa Monica, where she is pictured here.

The exterior of the new South L.A. animal shelter is striking, with a front facade composed of a series of green stucco “ribbons” and concrete panels with overlapping foliage, shown at top. The modern design is a welcoming presence in a light industrial zone near Western Avenue and 60th Street.

But perhaps the most remarkable feature of the facility is its layout: Imagining the psychology of people who will come to the shelter to “shop” for pets, Alomar has designed the building with a retail model in mind. The architect thought of shoppers at a mall who allow themselves to be sidetracked by small boutiques on their way to a large department store, so at the shelter she created a series of displays with the hope of enticing them to consider “alternative” pets such as reptiles or bunnies or older dogs rather than, say, puppies, which are often the first to be adopted.

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Dream kitchen: William Hefner design clicks with Houzz readers

The hot kitchen look of the moment belongs to Studio William Hefner, whose design for a Hancock Park house is the most popular on the shelter site Houzz.com
Who's got the fairest kitchen of all? Houzz.com offers one way of seeing the aspirational look of the moment -- the most envy-inducing arrangement of countertops, cabinets and bling. The Houzz website and app, which allow architects and interior designers to upload images of their work, operate like a dating site where homeowners can play the field a bit and see what strikes their design fancy before committing to a remodeling or building project. When readers see something they like, they can save images to a personal "ideabook" that lives on the site. It's the decorating equivalent of a "like" to that impossibly cute cat photo on Facebook.

More than 75,000 design professionals have uploaded almost half a million images to the site since it was founded three years ago. And the Hancock Park house pictured here, designed by Studio William Hefner, is winning the popularity contest for kitchens hands down. It has been added to more than 19,000 ideabooks.

Hefner, a Los Angeles architect, said the success of this kitchen -- which reads like a classic French country kitchen with a glam makeover -- has been nothing short of overwhelming.

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Schoolyard trailers turned into modular homes

Trailer de Cuba exteriorWhen it comes to energy efficiency, most homeowners focus on heating, cooling and lighting. But it may take as long as 15 years for a home's energy usage to match the amount of energy embedded in a home's construction.

This was the concept that a West Hills architecture firm embraced with research+upcycle, a modular home company that intends to reuse classroom trailers, transforming them into low-cost but high-style living space.

"We really need to rethink the way that we build homes," said Chase Anderson, who founded the company last year with his father, Robert, an architect and general contractor, and his stepmother, Petra, an interior designer. "With all the changes in the housing market and economy over the last several years, high-end, custom-built homes aren't selling." They started looking at different structures that would be inexpensive to transform into something chic.

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Watercolor paintings based on Julius Shulman photos

Eames House Amy ParkIf the famed architectural photographs of Julius Shulman sketched a story about California, then New York artist Amy Park has added her own chapter, painting color into images that many of us have seen over and over again.

Park creates large-scale watercolors from architectural photographs, and Shulman's images of California homes and other buildings were inspiration for a show that opens Saturday at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles.

“His photographs capture such an idyllic time in California,” Park said by phone from her studio. “The landscape, the light. It is magical for someone like me who grew up in the Midwest and now lives in New York.”

The painter, originally inspired by the documentary “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman,” did not work on site or even visit the buildings. She worked exclusively from Shulman's black-and-white photographs, on loan from the Getty Research Institute. Though Shulman’s archive does include color photography, Park chose black-and-white images as a challenge. The colors in her paintings of the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, for instance, are based on her recollection. 

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'Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors': Modern living with 'Mad' looks

Atomic Ranch: Midcentury InteriorsDuring a recent trip to San Diego, I drove by my childhood home in Point Loma. The low-lying 1956 ranch house still looked the same from the street. Were my hand prints still in the patio concrete? I also found myself wondering if the home’s period details inside remained. The lovely diamond pane windows with the stubborn hand cranks were gone. And surely the small kitchen with its funky brown appliances had been edited by now. But I hoped the wide brick and flagstone fireplace -- the one that could easily seat four and doubled as a stage for my sister and me -- was still there.

Atomic Ranch coverRetaining those classic ranch-house elements while adapting to modern living is precisely what Michelle Gringeri-Brown, editor of the quarterly Atomic Ranch magazine, tries to encourage through her new book, “Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors.”

“We try to point out the charm of original features,” Gringeri-Brown said in an interview. “We encourage homeowners to be cautious. Don't rush to gut the whole thing before you make interior design choices that can’t be undone. The period pieces often stand out as things to be appreciated.” 

Gringeri-Brown credits the popularity of “Mad Men” for fueling appreciation of ranch houses. A new generation is attracted to what she calls “retro cool.” Ranch houses also appeal to aging baby boomers who are wary of stairs. “Because ranches were built when property was cheaper, they tend to sprawl on one floor and have a larger yard,” the author said.

This is her second book on ranch houses with husband, photographer Jim Brown, and it highlights eight homes, from a tract house in Calistoga, Calif., to a split-level in Ohio. (That's a 1958 house in San Mateo, Calif., at the top of the post.) Homeowners share their remodeling stories, offer tips on projects such as windows and plumbing, and detail the design elements they have retained. In one case, homeowners found original metal kitchen cabinets in their garage. The book is filled with creative ideas as well as informative sidebars, floor plans, vintage photos and a list of nearly 200 resources.

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2012 restaurant design award finalists announced

A-Frame restaurantA-Frame restaurantSome familiar names popped up in the list of finalists for the annual Restaurant Design Awards, announced Wednesday by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Nominees include A-Frame, the Sean Knibb-designed restaurant in Culver City whose look we previewed before its opening, and Maximiliano, the Italian comfort food joint whose red spaghetti wall by the firm FreelandBuck we blogged about in January.

Also on the finalist list: Beachwood Cafe, the Hollywood spot whose design includes the Granada Tile cement designs we've been writing about for years, and Sushi Noguchi, a Yorba Linda restaurant where Poon Design created a smart look with the simplest of materials.

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2012 AIA housing design winners announced


AIA winners 1The American Institute of Architects announced the winners of its 2012 national housing design awards, a list punctuated by a Hollywood Hills home dubbed the Nakahouse, pictured above, by XTen Architecture. Other winners include a wood and glass retreat in Carmel, an apartment complex for the formerly homeless in San Francisco and a steel and glass prefab in the Arizona desert. You can see them all in our 2012 AIA housing winners photo gallery.

AIA collage 2

Photo credit, top: Steve King


OS House2011 AIA housing design winners

2010 AIA housing design winners

Homes of the Times: California design profiles

Sheditecture: Vote for your favorite cabin design

Woodbury plastic exterior Woodbury Oscar the Grouch Woodbury paper exterior  Woodbury cabin interior Woodbury wood interior Woodbury paper 3Minutes before the three cabins were to be unveiled, 17 exhausted architecture students in Woodbury University's design-build program raced to finish like a construction crew awaiting a city inspector. Ladders were still propped against the structures. Tool belts and Skilsaws lay about. "They were drawing and redrawing until the end," said architect Jeanine Centuori, chairwoman of the undergraduate program.

As we reported earlier, the challenge had been daunting: Take the components of a hardware store shed kit and build a cabin that can sleep two, with light, ventilation and insulation. Read our full story on the process and click through a photo gallery of the finished projects, then tell us: Which team created the best cabin?



Vote! We'll keep the poll open for a week and will share the results.


Simon Story house interiorSmall-space stories

Homes of the Times archive

Eames House moves into LACMA: Time-lapse video

Marmol Radziner house: 360-degree interactive panoramas

Photos: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Artists open studios for Venice Art Walk & Auctions

Gary Palmer Venice Art Walk
Venice artists and architects will open their studios and homes to the public this weekend for the Venice Art Walk & Auctions, the 34th annual fundraiser for the Venice Family free Clinic. Artist Jesse Hazelip will be working on "Hearts of Oak," a live painting and mural installation throughout the weekend on the Red Fort, a Venice landmark built in 1922 and located at 901 Pacific Ave. Other painters, sculptors and photographers will be part of a self-guided tour from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. (That's painter Gary Palmer pictured in his studio at the Distillery.)

Isabelle Alford-Lago Venice Art Walk Painter Isabelle Alford-Lago, known for her human-like gorilla portraits, right, will be featured inside the building at 1320 Main St. The show will include her signature artworks on large oil canvas along with several new pieces.

Alford-Lago's work will be among 400 items donated for a silent auction on Sunday, held at Google Los Angeles, Hampton Drive and Sunset Avenue. The auction runs from noon to 6 p.m. followed by a party until 7:30 p.m.

Self-guided architecture tours run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. They will highlight homes designed by architects including Neil Kaufman, Steven Shortridge, Molly Reid, Steven Ehrlich, John Frane and David Ritch, whose update of a 1906 bunaglow we featured a few years ago.

Tickets to the Art Walk are $50. Architecture tour tickets are $125. Buy online or register at the Westminster School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. For a full schedule of studio and architecture tours, silent auction and family events, consult the Venice Art Walk website.


Marmol Radziner house 2New Marmol-Radziner house in Venice

Shopper's guide to Abbot Kinney Boulevard

A peek inside a Maya Lin-designed Venice house

A green cube: Venice house planted on three sides

-- Lisa Boone

Photo: Gary Palmer

Painting: "Grandmaster" by Isabelle Alford-Lago


Woodbury architecture students turn sheds into cool little cabins

Woodbury shed cabinsThe challenge for three teams of architecture students from Woodbury University in Burbank: Design the coolest, smartest cabin that you can dream up. The catch: Your building materials have to come from an ordinary, not-so-cool shed kit from Lowes.

Woodbury paper cabin“There was a lot of grumbling at the beginning,” said Jeanine Centuori, chairwoman of the undergraduate architecture program at Woodbury. Each 10-by-10-foot shed had to be transformed to accommodate two people for sleeping. The template had to be tweaked to provide light, ventilation and insulation. And though the teams each had a budget of $1,500 for additional supplies, they also had a mandate to experiment with one assigned material — paper, plastic or wood.

PHOTO GALLERY: Woodbury students tweak shed kits into mini modern cabins

POLL: Vote for your favorite cabin design

Just how much can a simple shed be transformed? The answer becomes apparent before you're even off the driveway at the Shadow Hills Riding Club, the San Fernando Valley equestrian center where the three cabins were built.

The paper team's bright orange cabin practically glows, its exterior pop-outs borrowing an idea from motor homes (imagine dresser drawers left open). The pop-outs provide seating on the outside and space for luggage racks on the inside. Two beds are cleverly hidden under removable floor panels. Colorful hammocks from Craigslist hang from the ceiling, prompting student Sunny Lam to claim (as only a college student could) that the cabin “sleeps four.” (That's Lam in the photo hanging out, with Colin McCarville holding a floor panel that, when lifted up, becomes a privacy screen.)

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