House of the Issue: Clive Wilkinson Architects

House of the Issue: Clive Wilkinson Architects

Benny Chan

Clive Wilkinson Architects have specialized in transforming industrial lofts into exuberant workspaces, but to house himself, Wilkinson sought what he called “a neutral studio feel.”

Initially, he planned to convert a trio of West Hollywood rental units into condos that would generate income. After that project stalled, he was offered a triangular-shaped double lot at a bargain price across Melrose Avenue from the Pacific Design Center, and decided to do something ambitious. Yet though the house came out at 3,500 square feet, it’s almost hidden from the leafy side street, and has a rural sense of seclusion from within.

Wilkinson tore down two decrepit bungalows to clear the site and designed a pale-toned stucco house that is outwardly plain and set back behind a forecourt planted with olive trees. A high blank wall extends along the north side, shutting out the commercial properties on Melrose and a tall building to the north, and reducing heat from the sun. On the other side of the wall, thanks to large sliding glass doors, you can look all the way through the house from forecourt to rear garden, and the feeling of openness and transparency strengthens the fusion of interior and landscape. The house is naturally ventilated, from the sliders to the five electrically operated skylights. The projecting roof and good insulation reduce the need for heating, cooling, and artificial lighting.

The unaffected simplicity of the structure recalls the Case Study era, but Wilkinson has infused it with a spirit of invention. He has rotated the house a few degrees to accommodate the angularity of the site. There’s an emphasis on diagonal axes in the linear sequence of rooms that open onto a pool to the south and a Japanese garden to the west. One enters through a corner of the low-ceilinged living room and continues on through the sliders to the pool, or from the opposite corner to the lofty dining area and open kitchen. Unenclosed stairs lead up to a studio and guest bedroom. At the far end of the house is the master bedroom, a free-standing tub, and a stepped dry garden reminiscent of the desert around Palm Springs where he likes to spend weekends.

Exposed wood ceiling studs and concrete floors give the interior the character of an industrial loft, but the raw surfaces are softened by plantings and eclectic furnishings. A free-form wood dining table was crafted by Wilkinson’s 88-year-old father. The palette is monochromatic, except for two elements from recent jobs: vibrant green plastic curtains, laser-cut in a leaf pattern, from the JWT offices in Manhattan, and honeycomb storage units in golden yellow acrylic, left over from the Children’s Place in Pasadena.

Sliding glass doors in the living room and dining room open almost completely, connecting the diverging spaces.

Benny chan