Exploring Kappe in the Valley

Exploring Kappe in the Valley

Outside the Hayes House (Carren Jao)
Outside the Hayes House. (Carren Jao)

The Southern California chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) recently capped off a Ray Kappe-focused weekend with a home tour around Kappe’s many Sherman Oaks homes. As part of the series, The Architect’s Newspaper got a chance to peek inside one of Kappe’s earliest works, the Dr. and Mrs. Robert Hayes House.

Stepped far back from the street, the home is accessed only through a small path that one could easily miss among the rows of residential homes. The house was atypical of Kappe’s work, said historian Dana Hutt, but one can still see the beginnings of Kappe’s many architectural themes, including the aggressive opening of space, the blurring of inside and outside by continued elements and the complex layering of space.

The four-bedroom, two-bath house has a simple triangular silhouette. Glass sliding doors and clerestory windows surround the house allowing ample light in. Wood beams from inside the home continue outdoors forming large eaves, through which filtered light easily cast over the outdoor patio. In its heyday of entertaining, the Hayes house would welcome up to forty guests, the owners adding space  by opening up one of the sliding partitions that flows right into a patio.

Hayes House interior, historic photo. (Triangle Modernist Homes)

“That patio was part of the house, not outside of it,” insisted Dr. Hayes, now retired from his work at UCLA.

Inside, the space becomes more complex. A high ceiling over the living area is made more intimate with a lower frame over the kitchen and dining areas. Every part of the late 1950s home is used and very much lived in. Bookshelves are full of thick textbooks. Framed posters and paintings line the walls. On the living room mantle, a quaint box of handwritten recipes is still neatly filed, ready to be used at a moment’s notice. “As much as this house is Ray’s, this was also Alice’s,” said Dr. Hayes, referring to his deceased wife, who had closely collaborated with Kappe during the home’s construction in the late 50s.

While driving along a stretch of West Los Angeles, it was Alice who spotted Kappe’s National Boulevard apartments. The design captured her imagination and when she arrived home, she told her husband, “Bob, I found him.” Him, being the architect of their new home. When asked how he felt about returning to the home after so many decades, Kappe in typical deadpan fashion replied, “It’s never good to revisit.” A grin lingered on his face, suggesting quite the opposite. While the row of trees fronting Sepulveda Boulevard has thinned—“This used to have better shading,” said the architect—the home has held up remarkably well through the years, even weathering the great Northridge earthquake.

Another home on the tour, the Phineas Kappe Residence. (Anne Zimmerman)