On a tight urban lot, the design of a home’s entryway goes far beyond conventional notions of curb appeal. It’s not just about turning a friendly face to the street, but also creating privacy—a little distance between the front door and the sidewalk. Known for their simple compositions and Japanese aesthetic, EYRC Architects designed an entry sequence for this Beverly Hills residence that is deeply satisfying on both counts. But it’s not just the transition from outside to inside, public to private that feels calming and gracious. The entire house is designed for movement, rest, views, and reflection.
“The young couple wanted a house that made sense for the two of them, or four of them in the future, and that would provide a great environment for entertaining,” says partner Takashi Yanai, FAIA. “And privacy was very important to them.”
Located within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants, the house’s exterior is comparable in scale and materials to its neighboring 1940s Spanish-style homes, but with a modern twist. The architects used interlocking geometries of stucco, board-formed concrete, and cedar siding to produce something both contemporary and warm for this urban oasis. Slightly L-shaped, its front volume is offset to make room for a gated main entrance through the south-facing side yard containing a small pool and fountain.
“The gate leads you into this pastoral courtyard, and you encounter the front door once you’re in that courtyard,” says Yanai. “It was a way to layer in openness to nature and light but maintain privacy from the street. The exterior experience extends far deeper into the site than if you just had a big box.”
Nearly every design decision was focused on creating the illusion of continuity between interior and exterior. Inside, the foyer faces a flex room—a combination TV/music/guest lounge—that can be pocketed off. Its glass exterior wall brings in light and views of a contemplative side garden. “We’re not throwing away the side yard, even if it’s just 4 or 5 feet wide,” Yanai says. Turn 90 degrees to the left, and you’re facing the main living area, where several exquisitely executed moves elevate it to the realm of art. One is the board-formed concrete—first encountered in the entry courtyard—that creates an elegant, three-step platform at the base of the stairs. It turns back, letting one experience the space from different directions, before wrapping across the entire south wall and shooting out into the backyard.
“It’s a feature wall where we concentrated the finances and energy of the project,” Yanai says. Inset with maple casework, it borrows the Japanese concept of tokonoma, or display space. “In a Japanese house it’s much more discreet and small; this is a contemporary riff on that idea, where we have a wall that is beautiful unto itself, but also a composition and display of both everyday and fine art objects that make a statement about the spirit of the space.”
The staircase is another object of art, as well as a key piece of interior choreography. Positioned along a two-story wall clad in cedar—another touchstone from the courtyard—its thick walnut treads rise on a single steel stringer. “The stair anchors the threshold between inside and out, but is also an event; when someone ascends or descends the stairs, they’re sort of on display,” says Yanai.
The living area’s other defining feature is a sliding glass wall that opens seamlessly to the backyard and swimming pool. Because the lot is not very big, it’s important to have this visual and literal porosity, the architect says. “You pocket that door away, and all of a sudden that sitting and dining area feels almost like it’s outside, so it eliminates the need for covered outdoor space. It was a way to avoid the need for an outdoor sitting area.” The backyard, in turn, reads as a natural extension of the house with its board-formed concrete fireplace wall, concrete planters, and cedar slats.
Shoehorned onto a tight lot, the home’s simple, peaceful interior palette lets the landscape and art, and the lives of the owners, take center stage. In the absence of upper cabinets, the white kitchen blends with the rest of the house rather than standing out as a discrete space. Its pops of walnut—the range hood, the island—read as pieces of furniture, while the butler’s pantry around the corner keeps countertop appliances out of view. Likewise, the kitchen’s large-format porcelain floor tiles are low-maintenance and have an elegance that a concrete floor doesn’t have, Yanai says.
Upstairs, the architects’ interest in opening up strategic outdoor views continued to drive the design. The master suite in the back, two bedrooms, and the office at the front lie along a single hallway, so that there is a view of the sky and tree canopy at each end of the corridor. Here, too, the landscape is experienced in a way that lets all the interior spaces expand. “We’re mindful of what you are looking at when you turn a corner or are headed down a passage or stairs,” says Yanai.
If the clients are delighted with their private yet porous house, hopefully the neighbors are, too. Although not explicitly Spanish, it respects the street with its stucco and restraint. Its volumes step up toward the back of the site to preserve the neighborhood scale, and the metal garage door is painted a warm brown. “We don’t do architecture for the sake of architecture,” Yanai says. “Our architecture is pretty restrained, not minimal but simple.”
Takashi Yanai, FAIA, and Steven Ehrlich, FAIA
Plans and Drawings
Crescent Drive Residence
Beverly Hills, Calif.
ARCHITECT: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, Culver City, Calif.
BUILDER: Denver T Dale V Construction, Westlake Village, Calif.
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Audrey Alberts Design, Los Angeles
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: GSLA Studio, Los Angeles
PROJECT SIZE: 3,600 square feet
SITE SIZE: 0.14 acres
CONSTRUCTION COST: Withheld
PHOTOGRAPHY: Matthew Millman
WINDOW WALLS: Weiland Doors
INTERIOR LIGHTING: Tech Light
KITCHEN CABINETRY: Poliform
LIGHTING CONTROLS: Lutron
WINDOWS: Metal Window Corp.
WINDOW SHADES: MechoShade