Peek Inside the Frank Gehry Rental of an Emerging L.A. Furniture Designer
A good Craigslist find is the stuff of apartment-hunting legend. Just nabbing a place without crazy roommates is a small victory, but the home one L.A. couple found on the site makes most digital deals pale in comparison.
It was 2014 when Kristin Grant Fowler, the designer behind the furniture line Dust to Dust, and her now-husband, William Fowler, creative director of the meditation app Headspace, responded to an ad for a two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot rental in Venice Beach.
As it turned out, the space they would soon call home boasted an impressive pedigree: The two-story rental is part of architect Frank Gehry's 1980 Spiller House, a corrugated-iron structure just steps from the beach.
The couple was immediately smitten upon seeing the space. "I noticed the contrast of common materials with the sophistication of the design," Kristin says of her first impression of the apartment. "The house is literally made of materials that you could purchase from the hardware store in 1978, but the design is so beyond what a common DIY-er could create."
That initial view was all it took. "I knew we had to rent the apartment," William says, "having seen it, not getting to live in it would be tragic."
"I knew we had to rent the apartment...having seen it, not getting to live in it would be tragic." —William Fowler, resident
The apartment is set beside four-story home of owner Jane Spiller, who was working at the Office of Charles and Ray Eames when she embarked on the project with Gehry. The structure recalls Gehry's own 1978 home, in nearby Santa Monica, a deconstructed pastiche of everyday materials that marked the young architect as one of the most innovative of his generation.
The Spiller House rental had been on the market several times in recent years, and Jane Spiller insisted on vetting any potential tenants. In Kristin and Fowler she found a creative young couple with a passion for design.
Since graduating from the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in 2010, Kristin has helmed furniture company Dust to Dust, where she creates custom wooden furniture with a focus on pure forms and honest materials.
"I'm a total formalist—I see circles and squares and opposing volumes," Kristin says. The same spirit is evident in the home, from the simple materials to the crisp, angles, and, geometric forms.
"I naturally gravitate toward simple geometry...I suppose that's why I'm so in love with the Spiller House. From the outside it looks like a simple box, but inside Gehry made so many brave choices."
Along with a mix of off-the-shelf materials, there's another, more intangible element at play within the space: light. "It's as if it was another material Gehry considered," Kristin says, "immaterial but always creating an exchange with the space."
While the home's place in design history could be intimidating for some, Kristin and William have found how well the house complements their life within it—something they attribute to the architect's genius.
As Kristin puts it: "The Spiller House is very receptive to our personal style, which I feel is a strong part of why Frank Gehry is not just an architect, but an artist interested in how people live."