A Neutra Renovation in Los Angeles

Add to
Like
Comment
Share
By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
Recommended by
Architect Peter Grueneisen of Nonzero Architecture takes on revamping a classic.

The challenge of renovating an iconic midcentury house is surely a daunting one for any architect, but apply this formula to a Richard Neutra house, and the responsibility rises exponentially. This was the situation for Los Angeles–based architect Peter Grueneisen, founder and principal of Los Angeles–based Nonzero Architecture, who inherited the task of taking on significant updates to an already-altered Neutra—the 1949 Freedman House in Pacific Palisades, California. "Being aware of the responsibility that comes with changing an iconic house by one of the great masters, we nonetheless felt comfortable with the task," says Grueneisen. "Dealing with a structure that had previously been altered afforded us the ability to actually bring it closer to its original intent while trying to avoid the pitfalls of making changes that would not live up to the timelessness of the original."

The exterior reveals the addition located at the rear of the structure. An earlier renovation included adding landscaping by Pamela Burton.

The exterior reveals the addition located at the rear of the structure. An earlier renovation included adding landscaping by Pamela Burton.

The bulk of the changes would take place vertically in the form of a new second story that would help take advantage of the unobstructed ocean view. Having worked with other owners before being hired by music industry executive Jeff Ayeroff and his wife, Marty Longbine, Grueneisen was intimately familiar with the house and took the opportunity to restore core elements wherever possible. "While the first phase was essentially about restoring the house back to some of its original concepts and adding certain critical, but still missing pieces, the planned larger additions demanded a rethinking of the previous approach," says Grueneisen. Once the house was finished, Ayeroff and Longbine added their own touches to the interior, with George Nakashima pieces and their collection of art and photographs.

The house becomes part of Burton's landscape scheme.

The house becomes part of Burton's landscape scheme.

The original house opens completely to the repaved pool deck, which leads to the upstairs addition. "Working on the house had only increased our respect for Neutra, whom we had always admired greatly," says Grueneisen. "So we knew that any major additions would have to be respectful to his design."

The original house opens completely to the repaved pool deck, which leads to the upstairs addition. "Working on the house had only increased our respect for Neutra, whom we had always admired greatly," says Grueneisen. "So we knew that any major additions would have to be respectful to his design."

The addition references the main house in materiality and function. "We did not want to simply copy the existing elements, so we explored and investigated different levels of faithfulness to the existing structure, from a very near emulation to a much more contemporary approach that would only quote the previous architecture in some key aspects," Grueneisen says.

The addition references the main house in materiality and function. "We did not want to simply copy the existing elements, so we explored and investigated different levels of faithfulness to the existing structure, from a very near emulation to a much more contemporary approach that would only quote the previous architecture in some key aspects," Grueneisen says.

The main space containing the living and dining area and kitchen was relatively unchanged. "In consideration of the original vision, the additions blend with the original structure, and the basic idea of the open flow between the inside and the outside is maintained and reinforced in all areas," the architect says.

The main space containing the living and dining area and kitchen was relatively unchanged. "In consideration of the original vision, the additions blend with the original structure, and the basic idea of the open flow between the inside and the outside is maintained and reinforced in all areas," the architect says.

The upstairs portion of the addition takes advantage of the ocean view beyond. "The second floor achieves a dynamic on its own, with large window bands and roof overhangs with detailing emulated from the original," Grueneisen says. "But despite the significant change in the massing, we believe the final composition results in an integrated and seamless sense of continuity between the different generations of the building."

The upstairs portion of the addition takes advantage of the ocean view beyond. "The second floor achieves a dynamic on its own, with large window bands and roof overhangs with detailing emulated from the original," Grueneisen says. "But despite the significant change in the massing, we believe the final composition results in an integrated and seamless sense of continuity between the different generations of the building."