When a photo spread of architect Carter Bravmann’s self-designed home ran in the Los Angeles Times back in 2003, it was bound to attract potential clients hoping to get something similar for themselves. But one particular request—from a pair of best friends—still came as a surprise.
“They were living in a structure that was some sort of property close to the street; technically, it was a duplex,” Bravmann explains. “They owned a double lot, but there was nothing built in the rear portion of it.”
Working with interFORM, Bravmann’s architecture firm, changed all of that. Within the year, construction started on an all-new house for one of the friends on the back lot, and the original duplex was eventually reconfigured into a whole new home for the other friend and his wife. “What’s interesting about it is that, in Los Angeles, there are many properties zoned for two units,” Bravmann points out. “But never before had I done two single family units on one area.”
And that wasn’t all—the clients wanted both houses to be equal in design and attention; comparable in size, yet distinct from one another. And that still wasn’t all: “Both were to be equally green and be mutually inter-dependent, with respect to generating and consuming electricity,” Bravmann adds.
The firm had key materials and elements lined up from the get-go: siding and exterior finishes requiring little to no maintenance, solar-powered energy and hot water, aluminum fixtures, windows and doors, and highly finished concrete. This, combined with good channels of communication between all involved parties, helped both houses to their finishing point within three years’ time.
When it comes to what Bravmann credits the most, though, he looks no further than the project’s general contractor—Mark Blanco of Westmont Design and Construction, with whom Bravmann has since done a half-dozen projects. “That’s where the big money goes,” Bravmann states. “(The contractor) is who realizes the design. So it’s very important that they are of quality, and that not only the architect but the homeowner has a level of trust with them, and a positive working relationship.”
Although the back-lot home (pictured above) took 60 percent of the budget, interFORM managed to get both homes to a state of similarity with the help of items such as the ones highlighted here.
Photos by Michael McNamara
Concrete hardscape: Cemex, installed by Mark Blanco of Westmont Design and Construction, 626 485 0912
“The concrete is meant to be exposed material … it’s highly finished, so the concrete is the desired look.”
First-floor exterior: James Hardie, supplied by Terry Lumber Co., 323 849 6464
“It’s Hardiplank—a product that’s made of fiber cement, so its life expectancy is in the seven- to eight-decade range. The color is integrated into the material itself so there’s no actual paint required.”
Standing-seam metal roof: American Roofing Supply
“Given the curved shape [of the roof], this is a product that works very well and lasts a long time. And again, colors were infused into material so it didn’t have to be painted on-site.”
Exterior light fixtures: Westinghouse
“The lights are aluminum-housed with a unibody construction—meaning the aluminum can’t rust, and water cannot get into the fixture. They’re also powder-coated at the factory, so durability is great and the price is fairly reasonable.”
Windows and doors: Fleetwood Doors
“It’s a high-end aluminum window and door system—by ‘high-end,’ I mean the gauge of the aluminum itself, the engineering, the hardware … it’s all very reliable.”