written by:
photos by:
October 29, 2012
Originally published in Small World
as
Up and Away

Working with a limited footprint, a daunting slope, and killer views, architect Bruce Bolander went vertical with a secluded canyon house in Malibu.

Modern canyon house outdoor incline

To deal with a Malibu site’s sharp incline, architect Bruce Bolander set the steel, concrete, and glass house on caissons. A deep wraparound porch nearly doubles the home’s living space and offers the ideal perch for outdoor dining and taking in spectacular views of the surrounding canyon. The garage serves as resident Dave Keffer’s home office.

Photo by 
1 / 9
Modern kitchen hallway with wood-paneled wall

A colorful, laminate-clad wall of storage stretches seamlessly from the kitchen—where it holds a full-size built-in Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer, a Miele dishwasher, a Bosch cooktop, and a tiny convection oven—to the bedroom, where it contains the couple’s clothing, shoes, and linens.

Photo by 
2 / 9
Modern bedroom office with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors

Bolander designed the custom steel desk where Wright works (above), as well as the bedside table (opposite), fashioned from a speaker tower base and a slab of white oak. The desk chair and table lamp are vintage; the bed linens are from Garnet Hill and Ikea. The floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors from Metal Window Corporation open the entire corner of the room up to the outdoors.

Photo by 
3 / 9
Modern master bedroom with blue closet cabinets

In such a small space “you have to organize, and every piece takes a decision,” says resident Heidi Wright. The couple keep things they use less frequently, like guest bedding, in the higher cabinets.

Photo by 
4 / 9
Modern balcony deck with wooden ceiling and metal fence

Wright and Keffer (standing) hang out on their deck with Bolander, who lives just across the road. The chairs, designed by Bolander, are upholstered in Sunbrella fabric.

Photo by 
5 / 9
Modern living room with long green sofa and floor-to-ceiling glass doors

The sofa and lights in the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area are vintage.

Photo by 
6 / 9
Modern open-plan dining area with Eames Wire Chairs

Eames Wire Chairs, cushioned with custom pads, surround a dining table designed by Bolander.

Photo by 
7 / 9
Modern steel-concrete-and-glass home with wraparound porch

Fir slats on the wall and ceiling run through to the outdoors, visually expanding the space.

Photo by 
8 / 9
Modern Malibu canyon house floor plans

The floor plan.

Photo by 
9 / 9
Modern canyon house outdoor incline

To deal with a Malibu site’s sharp incline, architect Bruce Bolander set the steel, concrete, and glass house on caissons. A deep wraparound porch nearly doubles the home’s living space and offers the ideal perch for outdoor dining and taking in spectacular views of the surrounding canyon. The garage serves as resident Dave Keffer’s home office.

Project 
Blair House
Architect 

Several years after architect Bruce Bolander built a house for his family in a chaparral-filled canyon in Malibu, California, the steep lot across the road came up for sale. Bolander knew he had to move on it or risk watching a coral-pink mini-McMansion go up smack-dab in the middle of his sight line. “I wasn’t sure the lot was even buildable,” says Bolander, who bought the 2.5-acre site anyway. He spent the next four years wrangling permits for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom structure, its 900-square-foot footprint dictated—per city building codes—by the property’s previous house, which had been destroyed in the 1940s yet immortalized in a fuzzy old aerial snapshot. “The broad-stroke design happened pretty quickly,” says the architect. “The size was a given—the rectangular shape, even—and the rest was more about what felt good, what felt right in the setting.”

Modern kitchen hallway with wood-paneled wall

A colorful, laminate-clad wall of storage stretches seamlessly from the kitchen—where it holds a full-size built-in Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer, a Miele dishwasher, a Bosch cooktop, and a tiny convection oven—to the bedroom, where it contains the couple’s clothing, shoes, and linens.

For Bolander, what felt best was to integrate the house with the land. The resulting steel, glass, and concrete structure, protected by winglike roof overhangs, is set into the hillside noninvasively and is barely visible from the road below. Even so, as the house was being built, Dave Keffer, who runs a creative services firm, and Heidi Wright, an advertising executive, noticed its progress on drives through the canyon. “I started seeing this amazing structure go up and thought it was exactly the type of place I’d be into living in,” says Wright. The chance soon arose when Wright saw the rental listing in a local paper. Since Bolander had already outfitted the space with some of his own custom-built furnishings, the couple purged many of their own belongings, put the rest in storage, and moved in.

“When we really pared down, we realized that we didn’t need a lot of stuff,” says Wright. The solid wall of built-in storage running the length of the house, clad in petrol blue and light turquoise laminate panels, helped ease the transition to smaller quarters. “There’s a surprising amount of storage,” says Keffer. “We were thinking there would be no way we’d get all our stuff in here, but we did. Now we just have to be sure we put everything back where it belongs to reduce clutter.”

Modern bedroom office with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors

Bolander designed the custom steel desk where Wright works (above), as well as the bedside table (opposite), fashioned from a speaker tower base and a slab of white oak. The desk chair and table lamp are vintage; the bed linens are from Garnet Hill and Ikea. The floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors from Metal Window Corporation open the entire corner of the room up to the outdoors.

In the open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room, the home’s cool color palette allows key elements to shine, such as the steel-and-plywood dining table Bolander designed and paired with vintage Eames Wire Shell chairs, and the coffee table he hybridized from an Eames base and a large, round chunk of plywood. To Bolander’s selections, Wright and Keffer added some favorite pieces—she a 1950s kidney-shaped wood table, he something of his own design: a two-tiered triangular wood corner table that echoes Wright’s piece and neatly contains audiovisual equipment beneath the flat-panel television.

Bolander’s maximization of space has everything to do with the views. In the living room and bedroom, floor-to-ceiling glass walls retract, opening both corners of the front facade to the elements and the surrounding vistas—a move partly inspired by the master bedroom of John Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein house. “The mountains across the way are almost like another wall—they contain the space to the point that you feel like you’re in a much bigger space, that you’re part of the overall landscape,” says Bolander.

The architect employed other tricks to perceptually extend the house: He wrapped the facade with a six-foot-wide deck that bumps out to 12 feet off the living room, the best spot for taking in the ocean views. He seamlessly continued the gray hue of the cork linoleum floor from the interior onto the Dex-O-Tex deck; similarly, the skinny Hem-Fir slats on the interior ceiling extend through the glass walls to the roof overhang, appearing to thrust the house outward. Bolander makes unexpected use of a common design accent by running the bathroom’s Heath Ceramics Ogawa Green tile into the living room and out onto the exterior wall, allowing the interior to further wend its way outside.

Modern balcony deck with wooden ceiling and metal fence

Wright and Keffer (standing) hang out on their deck with Bolander, who lives just across the road. The chairs, designed by Bolander, are upholstered in Sunbrella fabric.

Both Keffer and Wright have plenty of workspace—her territory is a thin steel desk Bolander designed especially for the bedroom, where she’s up and on calls to New York the moment the sun rises over the mountains. Keffer runs his company from a home office in the detached garage, furnished sparsely with various musical instruments, a sofa from Wright’s previous abode, and a new, bright red-orange Womb chair and ottoman by Eero Saarinen. “I’m in love with that chair,” says Wright.

And when the occasion calls for a celebration, the house easily converts from work mode to play. “Entertaining here is simple,” says Wright. “We open up the doors, fire up the grill, and seat people outside. Living in a small space within this environment is actually very easy—the quality of life is amazing.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

IBM Upright Typewriter Prototype
A new monograph celebrates the late German industrial designer.
May 06, 2016
pow garden house 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 06, 2016
a matter of truss new zealand facade yard cedar cladding grassy berm portrait
This nontraditional home is full of bold moves.
May 06, 2016
indian summer concrete stucco ipe home pool
That's one way to avoid the cold.
May 06, 2016
Multigenerational house in Toronto with a unique profile
It's almost Mother's Day. Could you coexist with your extended family (plus renters) if it meant more affordable housing?
May 06, 2016
designindaba2016 532
Watch Local Studio founder Thomas Chapman explain social change and clever architecture in Johannesburg.
May 06, 2016
A renovated brick house with metal standing-seam roof in Arlington, Virginia
With a new skeleton, a brick house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., gets an eco-friendly upgrade—without losing its local charm.
May 05, 2016
simpler times australian vacation home vertical wood cladding
Robust materials and a flexible floor plan help the owners of an Australian vacation home reap maximum rewards.
May 05, 2016
sweet virginia vacation smart home facade granite stucco mahogany siding
This vacation home fosters connectivity in every sense of the word.
May 05, 2016
monkey see monkey do japan living dining room custom kitchen island stove vent eames chairs
And views of the wildlife aren't bad either.
May 05, 2016
Martis Camp 141 in Truckee California
Martis Camp 141 celebrates it mountainous surroundings with local materials.
May 05, 2016
havart 170
Updating standard pieces, designer Gaëtan Havart turns a misused space into a vibrant kitchen.
May 04, 2016
tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016