written by:
photos by:
February 8, 2010
Originally published in Recipe for Success
as
Surfer's Turf

It was the surf and the artsy vibe that attracted Eric Grunbaum to Venice Beach, California, 18 years ago. An avid surfer and creative director for an advertising agency, he thrives on lively environs. So it’s no surprise that he turned to the Los Angeles–based architect Barbara Bestor to design a house for him near the Pacific. Bestor, the chair of graduate studies at Woodbury University School of Architecture, has a formidable reputation in Southern California for her bohemian modernism, and for Grunbaum, she created a 2,000–square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home that harbors a traditional sensibility with a contemporary heart. Grunbaum gives us the tour of his modern surf shack.

From the deck off the master bedroom, Eric Grunbaum looks across his front yard. Barbara Bestor designed the second story to float over the ground “like a cloud.”
From the deck off the master bedroom, Eric Grunbaum looks across his front yard. Barbara Bestor designed the second story to float over the ground “like a cloud.”
Photo by 
1 / 11
Grunbaum was unafraid of a little color, as his living room proves. It includes a coffee table by Mockett and a Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.
Grunbaum was unafraid of a little color, as his living room proves. It includes a coffee table by Mockett and a Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.
Photo by 
2 / 11
A music and cycling fan (the vintage bike is by Vivalo), Grunbaum mans the turntables while friends gather in the kitchen. Case Study barstools are from Modernica.
A music and cycling fan (the vintage bike is by Vivalo), Grunbaum mans the turntables while friends gather in the kitchen. Case Study barstools are from Modernica.
Photo by 
3 / 11
The dining room is meant to be a flexible space for eating or dancing. “One of the most important things for me,” explains Grunbaum, “is how a house feels. It has to be a place where you don’t want to leave.” The Cyclone table is by Isamu Noguchi for Knol
The dining room is meant to be a flexible space for eating or dancing. “One of the most important things for me,” explains Grunbaum, “is how a house feels. It has to be a place where you don’t want to leave.” The Cyclone table is by Isamu Noguchi for Knoll and the pendant lamp is by Lightoiler.
Photo by 
4 / 11
Bestor restricted the height of the walls on the second floor to allow the clerestory windows to carry light from the front deck all the way to the guest bedroom in back.
Bestor restricted the height of the walls on the second floor to allow the clerestory windows to carry light from the front deck all the way to the guest bedroom in back.
Photo by 
5 / 11
The “murdered kitchen” includes a fluorescent light sculpture with dimmable ballasts designed by Bestor. The rough plywood offers a nice chromatic contrast.
The “murdered kitchen” includes a fluorescent light sculpture with dimmable ballasts designed by Bestor. The rough plywood offers a nice chromatic contrast.
Photo by 
6 / 11
Bestor gave each area of the house its own color scheme. The bright yellow stairwell maintains a cheery mood throughout.
Bestor gave each area of the house its own color scheme. The bright yellow stairwell maintains a cheery mood throughout.
Photo by 
7 / 11
Magenta is one of Grunbaum’s favorite colors, so he picked out a magenta Tufty-Time couch by B&B Italia and added a hot pink powder-coated faucet by Vola for the downstairs bath.
Magenta is one of Grunbaum’s favorite colors, so he picked out a magenta Tufty-Time couch by B&B Italia and added a hot pink powder-coated faucet by Vola for the downstairs bath.
Photo by 
8 / 11
The home already has a vivid color scheme, but to energize certain areas further, Bestor and Grunbaum added murals to some of the walls. Aside from the vinyl decals in the bathrooms, the stairwell is painted to evoke Grunbaum’s family home in the 1970s. D
The home already has a vivid color scheme, but to energize certain areas further, Bestor and Grunbaum added murals to some of the walls. Aside from the vinyl decals in the bathrooms, the stairwell is painted to evoke Grunbaum’s family home in the 1970s. Designer Mina Javid created a faux headboard for the master bedroom. minajavid.com
Photo by 
9 / 11
Los Angeles–based graphic designer Chris Loomis created a trio of window decals for the house’s three bathrooms. Grunbaum went with a camouflage pattern for privacy in the master bathroom, which has a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass that looks onto an adjacent patio. “Because we’re sort of in the trees, I wanted to keep the plant theme going,” he says. laloomis.com
Photo by 
10 / 11
California isn't known for its front porch culture, but Grunbaum loves Venice's walk streets and their pedestrian vibe, so he employed landscape designer Stephanie Bartron to orient his small patio towards the street. The house itself acts as a windbreak,
California isn't known for its front porch culture, but Grunbaum loves Venice's walk streets and their pedestrian vibe, so he employed landscape designer Stephanie Bartron to orient his small patio towards the street. The house itself acts as a windbreak, and lush patio furniture and a small fire pit turn what could have been another exercise in backyard solipsism into the home's most neighborly spot.
Photo by 
11 / 11
From the deck off the master bedroom, Eric Grunbaum looks across his front yard. Barbara Bestor designed the second story to float over the ground “like a cloud.”
From the deck off the master bedroom, Eric Grunbaum looks across his front yard. Barbara Bestor designed the second story to float over the ground “like a cloud.”
Project 
Grunbaum Residence
Architect 

I grew up on a 40-acre farm about 15 miles outside of Portland, Oregon, so I’ve always felt at home around nature. That may be why I was attracted to the walk streets in Venice, where sidewalks and gardens—–not thoroughfares and traffic—–run between the neighborhood’s front yards. We’re all a bit close together, but you don’t see any cars and the whole scene is much more intimate and neighborly.

From an early age, architecture has been one of my loves. My parents built the home I grew up in with Oregon mid-century modernist Van Evera Bailey, and I hoped to someday build a house of my own, thinking I would maybe justify such an undertaking when I was “all grown up” with my own family. But when the project began, I was still a single guy—–and my “family” was actually an expansive group of friends—–fellow musicians, writers, designers, and other creative types. So I wanted something that would work in either case: a flexible but comfortable space that could be a home to raise children, and also a fun, casual place where people could hang out, relax, and not want to leave.

Grunbaum was unafraid of a little color, as his living room proves. It includes a coffee table by Mockett and a Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.
Grunbaum was unafraid of a little color, as his living room proves. It includes a coffee table by Mockett and a Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.

That’s one reason I asked Barbara to build a DJ booth in the living area. We thought that this would become the communal center of the living area—–the hearth—–instead of a TV or a fireplace. When friends visited, I could just jump up and put on a record, or let others take turns. I could also throw a blow-out party, push the sofas out of the way, and transform my living room into a dance floor.

As I was thinking about all of this, I was traveling to Japan a lot for work. Generally speaking, the Japanese work within tighter constraints and smaller footprints. And yet they still manage to create beautiful spaces that are simultaneously bold and progressive, smart and restrained.

A music and cycling fan (the vintage bike is by Vivalo), Grunbaum mans the turntables while friends gather in the kitchen. Case Study barstools are from Modernica.
A music and cycling fan (the vintage bike is by Vivalo), Grunbaum mans the turntables while friends gather in the kitchen. Case Study barstools are from Modernica.

That became a central motif for us since we didn’t have a lot of space to work with. The property is 3,330 square feet, and most people tend to build to the edge to maximize indoor living space. I wanted to make sure that there was enough outdoor space to take advantage of L.A.’s climate and satisfy my outdoorsy Oregon roots. Both Barbara and I love the ori-ginal cottages that were built here in the early 1900s, so she took what looks like a typical pitched-roof bungalow, dipped it in white paint, and inserted a loftlike space underneath it. The second story became this white form hovering above the house like a cloud.

One great benefit of the pitched roof was that it allowed for more interesting interior spaces than a flat roof. To take advantage of this, rather than run the walls to the ceiling, Barbara designed standard eight-foot walls for two upstairs bedrooms and the master bath, then used glass in between the walls and the ceiling, which provided soundproofing, but allowed light to shine all the way through. Best of all,
it allows you to see the shapes created by the roof and the walls.

Barbara has a gift for building homes that feel good to be inside and knows what a huge role color plays. She encouraged me to think about different graphic color “moments” in the home. The stairwell became bright yellow. The living room is in shades of magenta. In the kitchen, she came up with the idea of “murdering” the center island, riffing on the L.A. phenomenon where people “murder” their cars, which is to say, they remove all the trim and ornament and black everything out: the windows, wheels, light covers, trim, everything. So we clad the entire island, top to bottom, in black laminate and installed black appliances.

Bestor restricted the height of the walls on the second floor to allow the clerestory windows to carry light from the front deck all the way to the guest bedroom in back.
Bestor restricted the height of the walls on the second floor to allow the clerestory windows to carry light from the front deck all the way to the guest bedroom in back.

People have told me that they really appreciate the restraint of the design on one level and the exuberance on the other, and I think that was our goal: an informal, open, flexible home that I could share with my friends. But the thing that made the biggest impression on me after moving in was the light. I love sitting at the kitchen island in the morning and looking out at the sun coming through the treetops. And that light comes from different directions throughout the day and remains constant. Even the moonlight at night comes through the bedroom’s large clerestory window. It really elevates your spirits. But for me that’s true of all great design.
 

To see more images of the project, please visit the slideshow.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses taste products
Ambience is a key ingredient to any meal—materials, textures, and mood all impart a certain flavor.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016