Product developer Eric Chu was thrilled with his West L.A. town houses, which were recently built by architect Whitney Sander from his custom Hybrid House system. But there was one problem: Though the narrow lot allowed for two buildings (one for Chu and the other to rent out), the only way to site them was back to back, with both living areas and upstairs master bedrooms squarely facing one another across the small courtyard, and little more than a young Chinese pistache tree between them.
Sander and Chu found the solution at wall coverings firm Astek Inc., in Van Nuys, California: bus graphics. Chu ran a couple of photos he had taken of the tree through some Photoshop filters for what he calls "a painterly effect," sent them to Astek, and, about $5,000 later, he had a pair of roughly 500-square-foot vinyl panels for both facades. Because the graphics are perforated with many small holes, they only cover 50 percent of the windows, enabling Chu and his neighbors to see out without anyone seeing in. Another convenient benefit: The panels double the homes’ shading by cutting out half of the sun’s glare.