written by:
photos by:
May 20, 2014
Originally published in Modern for All
Sound and Vision
An old barn in a Beverly Hills canyon inspires a new, clean-lined guesthouse and concert venue.
dining room with glass sliding doors
With his son, William, watching, architect Noah Walker tries out the floor-to-ceiling Schüco glass doors he integrated into a guesthouse he designed off an existing barn for Nathan Frankel, an amateur violinist, in Beverly Hills, California. The new portion features an open living-dining area. See more glass houses we love!
Photo by 
1 / 10
glass reflection window overlooking backyard
Walker left the site in its natural state, but added grasses along the path to the entrance. For more ways to use grass in your home.
Photo by 
2 / 10
back of home with glass balconies
He worked around existing oak and eucalyptus trees for the new building, and retained the vernacular of an original barn, at right, where Frankel hosts concerts. Check out MVRDV's Balancing Barn.
Photo by 
3 / 10
open dining room with glass doors
The new volume houses the dining area, which includes stairs to the bedrooms. The table is from Blake Avenue and the walnut chairs are from Room & Board. “You don’t want bright colors to take away from that relationship between the interior and the exterior,” Walker says.
Photo by 
4 / 10
open kitchen with earthy color scheme

In the kitchen, Walker continued an earthy color scheme. The range and wall oven are by BlueStar, the hood is from Zephyr, and the island is Caesarstone.

Photo by 
5 / 10
wine storage underneath the staircase
The wall beneath the stairs holds hidden storage, including an Enomatic wine dispenser and Sub-Zero refrigerated drawers.
Photo by 
6 / 10
terrace off the bedroom surrounded by trees
The terrace off a bedroom holds chaise longues from Design Within Reach. “When we laid out the project, the eucalyptus tree was going to go away,” says Walker. “But then we thought, if we move the foundation a little bit, we can probably save the tree.”
Photo by 
7 / 10
living room and concert venue with a view
Located in the renovated barn, the living room can be transformed into a performance space that seats 80. The art piece is from South Africa. Accompanying the Steinway piano is a sideboard from Restoration Hardware; the pendants are from Cisco Home.
Photo by 
8 / 10
glass balcony among the trees
Just as the barn was extended and cantilevered over the sloped site, so too was the deck off the kitchen, which juts out toward the oak grove. “There are 125 coast live oaks on the property,” says Walker. “They’re beautiful trees, so why not exploit that?” See more ways to use oak in your home.
Photo by 
9 / 10
beverly hills floor plan

Oak Pass Tree House Floor Plan

A Living Room B Courtyard C Corridor D Dining Area E Sitting Area F Kitchen G Bathroom H Bedroom I Terrace

Photo by 
10 / 10
dining room with glass sliding doors
With his son, William, watching, architect Noah Walker tries out the floor-to-ceiling Schüco glass doors he integrated into a guesthouse he designed off an existing barn for Nathan Frankel, an amateur violinist, in Beverly Hills, California. The new portion features an open living-dining area. See more glass houses we love!
Oak Pass Tree House

For Nathan Frankel, music and architecture first collided when he was six and tried to play a violin. “The story goes that I threw it against the wall,” he says. “It was not a successful start.” 

But encouraged by his father—a classical-music patron and sometime musician—Frankel picked up the pieces and kept practicing. He spent summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, and as an undergraduate he was concertmaster in the Brandeis University symphony orchestra. Today, he’s almost certainly the only concert-level amateur violinist in America who also runs his own scrap-metal export business.

In 2008, when Frankel began to envision a custom-built home for himself, he knew he wanted two elements: supreme quiet, so he could focus on listening to and playing music, and a space where others—sometimes many others—could do the same. With architect Noah Walker, principal of the Los Angeles–based Walker Workshop Design Build, Frankel has created a guesthouse high in a Beverly Hills canyon, featuring a living room that doubles as an 80-seat concert hall.

Designing the hall, it turns out, wasn’t as tough as finding a quiet site on which to build. “That’s not impossible to find in Los Angeles,” says Frankel. “We have hills—it’s not like New York City. But for the most part, in the hills, you end up with a small house that juts over a cliffside because there’s so little usable land, and you’re peering over your neighbor.” Not ideal when your house is going to include a concert venue.

The perfect parcel of land finally presented itself in the form of a 3.5-acre hilltop plot, where in the 1970s a previous owner threw debauched parties prowled—neighborhood legend has it—by the likes of Bob Dylan. One can see why superstars might feel free to let loose here: Surrounded by canyon views and greenery, it feels more like a remote state-park outpost than private land just four miles from Rodeo Drive. Still, the parcel wasn’t without its downsides, like a narrow access road that made the fire department nervous—Frankel allayed their fears by installing a fire hydrant on the property—or the stands of protected walnut and coast live oak trees spilling down the hillside, which by law can’t be damaged or removed.

For both client and architect, though, trees were less an obstacle than an inspiration for the open, minimalist two-bedroom home. “This is very much a tree house in a lot of ways,” Walker says. Taking cues in part from Kyoto’s Entsuji Temple and its long views of the countryside, he designed almost every room with giant windows—made with especially clear, low-iron glass—framing the tree canopy. He deployed a dark interior color palette to match the oaks’ deep greens and grays. Shortly after construction began, he even shifted the footprint of the house to save a eucalyptus tree he’d originally planned to uproot. Shooting up a mere foot from the back deck, it has become, Walker says, “this wonderful sort of feature…it really starts to shape your experience of the house, how it’s just nestled into the trees.”

Not surprisingly, the architect saved the most impressive natural display for the living room, which doubles as a concert hall. The space was built around the bones of a 1940s-era barn that came with the property; Walker added ten feet to the structure’s length, extending it toward a stand of oaks. Then he installed a floor-to-ceiling window—three massive panes of glass, taking up almost an entire wall—to create a spectacular wide-screen view of the trees that serves as the backdrop for the musical performances. 

“That is about as magical as it could have ever happened for me,” says Frankel, gesturing toward the window. “At Interlochen, we would play music and practice in cabins that were in the woods, or at the side of a lake. It was that sort of integration of nature and music.”

Less immediately noticeable in the living room are the ingenious details that allow it to transform into a performance space. Folding chairs and musical gear can be stored in an area beneath the floor. Extra HVAC ducts are tucked away around the edge of the room, ready to cool a large audience. The rear half of the space is 18 inches higher than the front, creating a cozy pit for an L-shaped sofa and allowing for raked seating when it’s concert time. 

But the biggest question remained: Would live music sound good in here?

Frankel and Walker opted not to deploy sound baffling or special acoustic design in the space. In fact, Frankel insists all that’s needed is a rectangular room. “I’ve been to places that have, like, curved walls and glass and every conceivable material placed at the most odd angles, and there are still dead spots and sweet spots,” he says. “Then you go to a shoe box–shaped performance venue anywhere in Europe that was built 400 years ago, and no matter where you sit in it, [the sound] is perfect. It’s a rectangle—that’s all it is.”

One Monday night, Frankel proves it. He’s hosting a benefit performance by the celebrated Romanian violinist Alexandru Tomescu, and the first note the musician drags out of his Stradivarius raises the hair on my arms. The dozens of audience members packed into the room provide all the baffling necessary; it sounds fantastic.

Tomescu fires off “Caprice No. 24,” one of several Paganini compositions so mad and so fiendishly difficult to play, the composer was said to be possessed by demons. Senses swirling, I suddenly notice the globe lamps hanging above me reflected in the giant window behind Tomescu as he bows his instrument with a fury. Outside, above the coast oaks lit from below, there’s a full moon rising. And superimposed over all of this is a reflection of us, the audience. It is layers upon layers, the constructed and the natural and the human, all instruments in harmony.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

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
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
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
gramercy 1 ar53319
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016
Details of the Calico collection.
Calico Wallpaper founders Nick and Rachel Cope showed us through their home in our March Issue, now step inside their studio.
April 28, 2016
william krisel pow 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
April 27, 2016
Dwell on Design and designjunction at ArtBeam
It's all part of Dwell on Design + designjunction's three-day event, featuring a program of talks chock-full of leading figures in design, architecture, urbanism, and beyond—coming up May 13-15 at ArtBeam in New York.
April 27, 2016
seattles mariners floating house prefab facade exterior fiber cement panels
A prefabricated floating home drops anchor in the Pacific Northwest.
April 27, 2016
royan treatment living room stone fireplace vintage new furnishings
French designer Florence Deau effortlessly mixes the old with the new.
April 27, 2016
modern netherlands 13 noordeinde schoolhouse parquet herringbone floors stove
Take a lesson from this school-turned-home.
April 27, 2016
The sidewalks of Copacabana in Rio De Janero, Brazil, designed by Roberto Burle Marx
The Jewish Museum in New York City takes it outside with a celebration of the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
April 26, 2016
Waterfront home in Belvedere, California
A 1960s home infested with powderpost beetles had to be sacrificed before this this Zen-inspired house could happen.
April 26, 2016
dialogue house
At the base of Echo Mountain in Phoenix, a geometric home by Wendell Burnette opens up to the surrounding desert landscape.
April 26, 2016
street smarts kitchen full view
A creative couple transforms an old Toronto storefront in Dundas West into a home and studio.
April 26, 2016
hald strand
This architect thinks of everything for his summer escape, pizza oven included.
April 26, 2016
gans turin residence living room
Thanks to a contemporary interior that she’s been updating for a decade, modern architect Abigail Turin has learned to love her traditional 1925 San Francisco home.
April 25, 2016
Johannesburg-based design studio Counterspace was founded in 2014 by young architecture graduates Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar. Their projects are collaborative, research-led investigations into possible futures and ideas of otherness in Johannesburg.
April 25, 2016