Cover Story: Step Inside Will Arnett’s Prefab-Hybrid Home
Scrolling through Will Arnett’s IMDb credits evokes the varied architectural styles of Greater Los Angeles in rapid succession. There’s the Venice bungalow that belongs to his character Chip in the Netflix show Flaked; the terra-cotta-tiled model home in Orange County that Gob Bluth commandeers in Arrested Development; the art-filled oasis on a hill where BoJack Horseman, the anthropomorphic former TV dad in the animated series of the same name, looks out over the city.
In real life, if Will’s home, slotted into a secluded dell in Beverly Hills, resembles any of his characters’, it’s BoJack’s, with its similarly stacked volumes and a pool that backs up right to the edge of a dangerously steep slope. But there’s an important distinction: The actor’s 3,975-square-foot steel-frame house, finished last year, is a custom prefab, its stylistic origins traceable back to his childhood in Canada.
Growing up in Toronto, we had these great ravines, and there was one house in particular that was very modern, with a lot of glass," he says. "I remember people saying, ‘That place looks weird.’ And I remember being like, it’s not weird, it’s rad."
Since the early 2000s, when his acting career took off, Will has lived in multiple houses on both coasts, with few constants. One exception is architect Suchi Reddy, the longtime collaborator whom he credits with refining his modernist instincts. "In a lot of ways, she educated me," he says.
Born in southeast India, Reddy pursued architecture in Chennai and Detroit before establishing her practice, Reddymade Design, in New York in 2002. Soon after, she met Will through a client at Saturday Night Live. While some might have been intimidated at meeting a breakout sitcom star, Reddy remembers being more impressed by Will’s raw understanding of architecture. "He’s the kind of person who knows how deep in the ground his piles are," she says.
For his part, Will shared Reddy’s absorption with clean design warmed by plush textures and flat-woven rugs. He soon asked her to remodel his apartment in Greenwich Village, followed some years later by another project, and then another. "You have to know your subject," Reddy stresses. "One of the things I like about Will is that he’s always interested in big ideas."
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In 2015, the big idea that had a hold on Will’s attention was prefab. "Through the years I’d seen it get better and better, especially in Europe and South America," he says. Separated from his wife, actor and comedian Amy Poehler, he was preparing to build a new home from scratch in Los Angeles, envisioning a place where he could spend time with their two boys and recharge between long days on set and far-flung press junkets. Going modular, he hoped, would help simplify the process.
Reddy was in Cuba when she received the call of duty: Come to California and imbue the project with their shared sensibility. Will had already picked both the place, a three-quarter-acre lot on the side of a lush hill, and the prefab company, a high-end design and development firm in Santa Monica called LivingHomes. For her first ground-up build with her longest-running client, Reddy joined an ensemble cast that featured LivingHomes director of design Amy Sims and project manager Sean Hennigan, local landscape designer Michael Fiore, and an army of contractors, specialists, and engineers.
"I like that everything has its place—the idea of form and function coexisting." Will Arnett, resident
The L-shaped dwelling they created is no catalog-order kit house. About a third was built on-site, including a glass staircase tower and a guest wing (featuring a recording booth where Will—the voice of LEGO Batman and other characters—can ply his trademark baritone). Even the prefab section, consisting of six modules containing four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area, and a living room, was heavily customized.
"When the company started out, we thought we’d sell homes like iPhones," recalls LivingHomes CEO Steve Glenn. But they soon realized that mishmash zoning codes and clients’ particular tastes made a one-size-fits-all approach unrealistic. For Will, LivingHomes completely reimagined its RK2 model—a design originated by legendary SCI-Arc cofounder Ray Kappe—downsizing the floor plan by 10 percent, among other changes.
On installation day in September 2016, Will took his kids out of school and invited his parents to town to watch as the 12-foot-wide modules were craned into place. "These lots allow for eight- to ten-thousand-square-foot houses, but I didn’t want it to look ostentatious," the actor explains. Nor did he want the structure to spoil the olive-and-eucalyptus-tree-dotted site, which is why the cedar facade has a black stain. "The dark exterior makes the green-blue tone of the landscape stand out beautifully," Reddy says.
For the same reason, the interior is covered in sumptuous yet subdued finishes. Pale fir flooring imported from Denmark and a charcoal-colored Turkish runner greet visitors in the foyer. A few steps farther in, the double-height living area, composed of two stacked modules, houses a huge cabinet that’s plastered in thin black porcelain panels. Around the corner, the walls in the sunken playroom are clad in textured cast paper that looks like raked concrete. Will’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Law, who happens to be an interior designer, lent her eye for art, picking works by Tom Hammick and Matthew Porter.
"The view doesn’t look like L.A. It looks like Tuscany." Will Arnett
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The muted, almost Nordic palette directs the focus outward. Seen through the ground floor’s expansive glass walls, or studied from the master bedroom’s balcony, the view down the canyon is a constant presence. "The house itself just melts away," Will says. "What you’re really appreciating is the view and the light." That indoor/outdoor fluidity—being able to watch his kids splash in the pool one minute and jet inside to the recording booth to log lines for a movie the next—may be what the busy actor enjoys most.
From start to finish, the project took more than two years, longer than an off-the-rack prefab might have, but hardly an eternity considering the challenges. Mixing on-site and factory building is no picnic, says Reddy: "You’re basically taking on two sets of problems and solving them both." Other factors, like site prep and approvals, tacked on time, too, but not the client.
"Will travels a lot, but he made this his top priority," says LivingHomes’ Sims, who adds that the entire team took part in weekly calls. "It’s like working on a movie or a show," Will explains. "There are all these different departments and everyone is doing their job. In this case, everyone did their job really well."
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