A Family Home Connected to Nature

Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects designed this Los Angeles home for a half-Taiwanese, half-Chinese family seeking rest and peace


The busy couple and their two teenage children who live in this house in Santa Monica, California, had a straightforward yet ambitious brief for the EYRC Architects team: They wanted ‘a place to get away from it all’.

Built on an 830-square-metre plot, the new two-storey structure, which is spread over 440 square metres — including a second level exterior deck — was perfectly tailored for the family to spend quality time surrounded by beautiful views.

The couple — she is from China and was born in Korea and he is from Taiwan and was born in Pennsylvania — and their two teenagers imagined their home as an oasis for rest and reflection. These needs immediately resonate with the approach of Takashi Yanai, partner and residential studio director at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects. ‘When you are connected to nature, you’re in tune with the universe. Even a blossoming tree can ground a person,’ Yanai says. ‘That is a Japanese way of thinking and making buildings.’

Born in Japan and raised in Southern California, Yanai, who studied literature and philosophy before becoming an architect, infuses all his projects with California modernist influences and reinterpreted Japanese elements. This home is no exception. The structure consists of three imbricated boxes in different sizes and colours (white stucco, grey and larch cladding). In the peaceful gravel garden, a concrete walkway leads to the ground floor, which comprises an L-shaped living room and dining area. The kitchen helps to both connect and demarcate the spaces. All around, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open entirely to the exterior. ‘Maximising the connection to the yard was really important,’ the EYRC team says. ‘The grass literally comes up to the very edge of the house, softening this relationship and making it into an outdoor living room.’

While concrete is predominant downstairs (through the floors and bench/fireplace), white oak wood floors were preferred for the second level, which hosts the master suite and the two children’s bedrooms (each with their own bathroom). Throughout, the colour palette is minimal and simplicity is revealed through materials and spaces.

A sculptural staircase invites the dwellers and their visitors to discover the open-to-sky meditation deck, which encapsulates the whole spirit of this Zen project connected to nature. Here, in California, the Japanese spatial concept of ma, which refers to the notion of space between things, is honoured through a subtle balance between the void and the built.

Text / Karine Monié
Images / Darren Bradley