A Tiered Home in Los Angeles Hugs a Steep Slope

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Referencing Case Study architecture, Three Step House in Silver Lake gradually climbs a curving site.

Aptly named Three Step House for its three tiers, this residence by Los Angeles–based studio CHA:COL sits on one of the few remaining plots in the Silver Lake that hasn’t been built on in the past. The house’s steeply sloping site, which looks out on downtown Los Angeles, was only accessible from the lower end, so it was crucial to locate the rooms and living spaces at just the right levels to capture the views. 

Because of the nature of the site, the house would need to be accessible vertically from the public access road, so it couldn't be set too far high up, or too far back. And since the site curved steeply, the house would need to use the topography intelligently. 

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Reinforced concrete was used for the retaining walls and slabs along all grades, while wood framing with steel framing beams were used at cantilevered areas.  

Reinforced concrete was used for the retaining walls and slabs along all grades, while wood framing with steel framing beams were used at cantilevered areas.  

Apurva Pande and Chinmaya Misra, the husband-and-wife duo behind CHA:COL, responded to the owners’ needs with a three-step dwelling, where each level precisely addresses the topography to avoid the need for elevators or excessive switchback stairs.  

"We wanted to ‘cap’ the dwelling with a generous, almost sweeping canopy that would keep the majority of the high sun exposure areas in shade," says Pande. "We also played with the roof volume to break free from the constraints of a typical ‘box modern’ home."

"We wanted to ‘cap’ the dwelling with a generous, almost sweeping canopy that would keep the majority of the high sun exposure areas in shade," says Pande. "We also played with the roof volume to break free from the constraints of a typical ‘box modern’ home."

The owners also wanted their home to maximize the city views, and include plenty of outdoor areas. 

From a spatial perspective, each level has its own unique purpose. 

From a spatial perspective, each level has its own unique purpose. 

"By the time a user climbs from entrance at the lowest level to the topmost floor, they will have climbed 35 feet without realizing it," says Misra. "We interviewed more than 50 people who had visited the site at different times, and none of them realized the slow height progression of the Three Step House, since the stairs were broken up into small, discrete runs."

"By the time a user climbs from entrance at the lowest level to the topmost floor, they will have climbed 35 feet without realizing it," says Misra. "We interviewed more than 50 people who had visited the site at different times, and none of them realized the slow height progression of the Three Step House, since the stairs were broken up into small, discrete runs."

The house was designed with five yards, and each level has access to a separate deck or yard, so the owners can enjoy indoor/outdoor Californian living.  

The house was designed with five yards, and each level has access to a separate deck or yard, so the owners can enjoy indoor/outdoor Californian living.  

In homage to the traditions of Richard Neutra and Gregory Ain who built extensively in the area, the form of the 2,600-square-foot house, which includes an outdoor pool, emerged from the concept of building incrementally upward in steps along the slope. 

In homage to the traditions of Richard Neutra and Gregory Ain who built extensively in the area, the form of the 2,600-square-foot house, which includes an outdoor pool, emerged from the concept of building incrementally upward in steps along the slope. 

The most recognizable aspect of the house is this sweeping canopy, which uses cantilevers to minimize grading, and to ensure the volumes feel airy rather than restrictive. 

Custom wood millwork, polished concrete floors, and some exposed concrete were used for the interiors. 

Custom wood millwork, polished concrete floors, and some exposed concrete were used for the interiors. 

An entrance lounge and concealed laundry are located on the entrance level, where there is also a small lounge area with books.

An entrance lounge and concealed laundry are located on the entrance level, where there is also a small lounge area with books.

The generous, double-height entrance lounge is equipped with washer/dryer utilities tucked under the stair with a cantilevered mezzanine "book nook" right above it. 

The generous, double-height entrance lounge is equipped with washer/dryer utilities tucked under the stair with a cantilevered mezzanine "book nook" right above it. 

The next level holds a living/dining area with a powder room and entertainment area. 

The next level holds a living/dining area with a powder room and entertainment area. 

A continuous open-plan living, kitchen, and dining area with a powder room is located in the living level. 

A continuous open-plan living, kitchen, and dining area with a powder room is located in the living level. 

The third level houses three bedrooms with ensuite baths.

The third level houses three bedrooms with ensuite baths.

"The aesthetics paid homage to the rich Case Study modern tradition of Silver Lake and Los Feliz—generous roof canopy, cantilevered massing, stepped levels, interconnected indoor-outdoor decks at every opening and level," says Pande. 

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West Elm Morten Table Lamp – Black
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Herman Miller Landmark Chair
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The bedrooms have access to the spacious deck outdoors.

The bedrooms have access to the spacious deck outdoors.

Three bedrooms and bathrooms with generous, tapered ceilings reside on the third level.  

Three bedrooms and bathrooms with generous, tapered ceilings reside on the third level.  

The bathrooms were kept simple and bright.

The bathrooms were kept simple and bright.

A separate two-car garage is located near the entrance of the house, which has a bike rack and planters out front.

A separate two-car garage is located near the entrance of the house, which has a bike rack and planters out front.

Previously, we featured a live/work loft by CHA:COL inspired by M.C. Escher and game design.

 

Project Credits: 

Architecture: CHA:COL Inc. / @charcoal.and.ink

Builder: Taz Construction 

Structural engineering: 3S PE Inc. 

Civil engineering: Tritech Engineering Associates Inc. 

Landscape design: Terremoto 

Furnishing: The Platform Experiment@theplatformexperiment

Photography: Edward Duarte and Lauren Moore

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