“We look at human beings as an integral part of their ecology, not separate from it, and as such, design buildings that reconnect us to our natural surroundings,” says Kristopher Conner, of Conner + Perry Architects about the firms’ global approach to design. “Form and structure grow instinctively outward from a core concept, details and assemblies reflect the essence of their physical materiality, and boundaries between interior and exterior become blurred.”
It is evident that this applied thinking was top of mind when the firm was tasked with finishing a Rustic Canyon home for art collector and MOCA board member Dallas Price’s daughter, Jamie Price, and her husband, Brad Schlei. Both grew up not far from Rustic Canyon—the wife in a Ray Kappe home, the husband in a home by Paul R. Williams—and have a deep affinity for California modernist architecture.
Firm founders, Kristopher Conner and James Perry, formerly worked with John Lautner protégé Duncan Nicholson, who began the project in 2013 before his untimely passing. “Duncan had previously worked for Jamie’s mother, Dallas Price (a prominent Los Angles art collector), collaborating with the artist James Turrell on her private Skyspace installation at her Ray Kappe designed home,” notes Perry.
The partners were brought on to complete and enhance the 6,800 square foot single-family home, alongside interior designer firms; Olivia Williams Interior Design and Merrell Design Co and builders; Dick Minium Construction and RAM Development & Construction Company. Though the schematic phase was complete, the team made some distinct changes while retaining the essence of Duncan’s original concept.
A major component of the overall direction was the clients’ notable art collection. “One experiences the breadth of their collection moving through the continuous open public spaces of the house and discovers more unique and compelling pieces as they are allowed to explore individual rooms and more private spaces,” says Conner. They also brought to the table an impressive collection of vintage lighting and hardware that were incorporated throughout.
The couple had a deep connection to the home’s design and wanted a space that would not just align with their artistic sensibilities but also serve as a retreat. As Brad describes, “We wanted something that looks like it belonged in the canyon and felt like we were living amongst the trees.”
The site is home to several protected California live oaks and once served as a test station for the Forestry Service during their Eucalyptus tree testing in the 1910-20s and contained several century-old specimens of different species. “While most of these trees were preserved, the few that were cut down to make the property buildable were repurposed for key elements throughout the house including the main front doors, fireplace mantles, a built-in daybed, and outdoor tables and stools,” says Perry.
The structure dances around the sacred trees, creating a number of intimate outdoor areas that blend the exterior and interior. Massive multi-glass sliding doors that pocket away, fully open the house up. “The gentle ocean breezes making their way up through the canyon permeate the house and you feel as if you are in one large outdoor space, yet completely sheltered,” notes Conner.
Other custom design details by Conner + Perry Architects include angular cantilevered copper eaves, custom weathered brass exterior sconce light fixtures, the hangar style garage door that completely disappears and blends into the surrounding wood siding when closed, the outdoor cabana restroom and shower, the massangis grey limestone clad pool that ties into the same interior stone used on the floors in the kitchen and sunken living room, and the custom blackened steel, bronze, glass, and French oak feature stair at the main entry.
They installed custom Japanese style Sho Shugi Ban siding milled in two pieces from a standard Douglas Fir, honoring the firm’s modern organic roots while reducing material waste.
The final result is a remarkable oasis in a busting city where the family combined their love of modernity, art and serenity. “Each of them has described the house as having a magical or mystical quality, allowing light in at the right moments, as well as the shadows of the trees, and a calming mirroring effect,” says Conner.