Privacy in Malibu is hard to come by. Most of the area’s commodious beachfront houses are packed close together, which is why Brad Lynch, principal and president of Chicago architecture firm Brininstool + Lynch, was intrigued by a residence that stood apart.
In 2017, one of Lynch’s loyal clients asked him to fly out to Los Angeles to scope out the home, which he was keen to buy. "A lot of the properties in Malibu are relatively exposed, but this one is down a side road that gets you off the street. It’s rare to get this kind of quiet there while the Pacific Ocean is still within walking distance," says Lynch.
The home is nestled into a canyon and surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, and it was this dramatic setting that initially called out to Lynch—but its distinct architecture captured his intrigue, too.
The Malibu home, dubbed the Mariposa House, was built in 1955 by Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Alfred T. "Hap" Gilman, who was also known for his Spanish Colonial–style creations. Despite its rundown state, Lynch thought the residence was a stellar example of California modernism. The "good bones" of the structure, which flaunted a mix of earthy stone, wood, and glass, are also what impressed the client.
"It felt considered, not contrived," says the owner. "[There were] small courtyards for every bedroom, rooms with comfortable scale, [and a] low, flat, sloping roof. You could tell the original architect thought about how to put it together for living, not just for looking."
Given that Lynch and the client had collaborated on a number of prior projects, there was an ease to their communication about the Mariposa House renovation. Lynch understood from the get-go that one of the client’s priorities would be reinstating the dwelling’s midcentury vibe while seismically retrofitting it and making upgrades with sustainability in mind.
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"There were very few parts of the house left standing—just a few stone walls and beams that we thought we would have to replace but were able to restore by stripping down and adding a minimal stain that looks as natural as possible," recalls Lynch.
The owner wanted to maintain the warmth conjured by the home’s original Douglas fir tongue-and-groove ceilings, so Lynch replicated that same cozy feeling with a swath of new wood.
Expanding the connection to the outdoors was also essential to the client. Lynch amplified this relationship by ensuring the home featured copious glass walls and gardens rife with native plantings like California sycamore, California poppy, and Calistoga harrow, all pieced together by Santa Monica landscape architecture firm Pamela Burton & Company.
"The idea is really that the depth of the landscape becomes the predominant feature," explains Lynch. "[So] that when you walk into the home, you are comfortable and your eye is drawn outside."
New, glimmering terrazzo floors help make the indoor/outdoor transition feel organic, stretching across each room in the 5,574-square-foot home, and even out onto the hardscape.
"It is just spectacular; the warmth of the colors, the flecks of texture throughout," says the client. "The glass, the flowing curtains, even the little things, like the hidden integration of the forced air registers. The place is awash in thoughtful, respectful details where they matter—nothing feels overdone, nothing too precious. It’s lightweight and livable, perfectly integrated with the landscape, and a treat to spend time in. We’re fortunate."
Structural Engineer: Bruce Resnick, Parker Resnick Structural Engineering
Lighting and Interior Design: Brininstool + Lynch / @brininstool_lynch
Custom Cabinets and Millwork: Louis Brandt, Stay-Straight Manufacturing
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