A Bright Red ADU Anchors a Lot on L.A.’s Westside

With a clever arrangement comprising a cottage and a primary residence, local design firm ORA gives a family outdoor access at every turn.

When a young family approached ORA to design their home in the Los Angeles suburb of Mar Vista, they asked the firm to strike a balance: Inside should harmonize with out, and the needs of the present should be addressed as equally as the possibilities of the future. 

"The brief was to create an efficient, economical, and sustainable home and art studio that could evolve as the family’s needs and circumstances change over time," says the firm. ORA responded with a fluid and dynamic design that rejects the norms of its nearby neighbors.

Instead of building out a box to the lot lines, as is common for new developments in the area, the studio created two separate buildings in tandem with one another: a long, linear home "shaped like a boomerang," and a bright red accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with a faceted roof that "references the form of the neighborhood’s one-story gable cottages," says the firm. 

For now, the ADU functions as an art studio, but it can easily become an independent apartment should the owners need it for aging-in-place, or as a space for guests. 

There was another reason to avoid building to the lot’s perimeter: By siting the two structures strategically, the firm created a series of accessible outdoor areas—from the pool zone tucked behind the ADU, to the James Turrell–inspired "skyroom" off the second-floor main suite. "Each aspect of the design was carefully considered to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience," says the firm. 

At the main level of both buildings, "every room opens directly to an outdoor space," says the firm. This is true whether it’s a guest bedroom with a large sliding door, or the ADU, with its double doors that open wide to a front courtyard. There, the owners can easily spread out with large art projects.

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A shared glass entryway was slotted between the two buildings. In the main house, a long skylight over the staircase brings natural light deep inside, and steers circulation, while views to the surrounding gardens are plentiful. A soothing material palette composed of concrete floors, white walls, and wood is punctuated by spots of bright, happy color—like the teal tile backsplash and a salmon-toned cabinet in the kitchen, or the sunshine yellow vanity in one of the bathrooms. 

And as for the unexpected color of the ADU? "It was inspired by a strawberry bush at the owner’s former home," says the firm. In such ways, not only did ORA balance indoors and out, and the present with the future, but the firm also created a home that both surprises and comforts. 

Related Reading:

With Three Good Reasons and $400K, an L.A. Couple Build the ADU of Their Dreams

Salvaged Wood in a Neglected Shed Shines Again in This Los Angeles ADU

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: ORA / (@ora.la_arch)

Builder: William Kent Development, Inc. / William Gorton

Structural Engineer: Scott Christiansen Engineering

Civil Engineer: DK Engineer Corp

Landscape Design Company: Artecho Architecture & Landscape Architecture

Energy: Alternative Energy Systems

Other: A.G.I. Geotechnical, Inc. / Juan A. Vidal

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