Cover Story: Step Inside Will Arnett’s Prefab-Hybrid Home

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By Dwell
The Hollywood actor turns to his unofficial design guru when creating a custom-prefab hideaway in the hills above Los Angeles.

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. 

Will Arnett turns to his unofficial design guru when creating a custom-prefab hideaway in the hills above Los Angeles.

Will Arnett turns to his unofficial design guru when creating a custom-prefab hideaway in the hills above Los Angeles.

Intrigued by the "smart, simple things" being done with modular housing, Will Arnett tapped architect Suchi Reddy and prefab company LivingHomes to design a house that merges the best of on-site and factory construction. Seen from the driveway, the "Arrested Development" and "LEGO Movie" actor’s new home, completed in 2017, is defined by a glass tower.

Intrigued by the "smart, simple things" being done with modular housing, Will Arnett tapped architect Suchi Reddy and prefab company LivingHomes to design a house that merges the best of on-site and factory construction. Seen from the driveway, the "Arrested Development" and "LEGO Movie" actor’s new home, completed in 2017, is defined by a glass tower.

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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. 

Near the front door, charred oak treads float on a blackened steel stringer to the master suite and on to the roof. 

Near the front door, charred oak treads float on a blackened steel stringer to the master suite and on to the roof. 

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Cover Story: Step Inside Will Arnett’s Prefab-Hybrid Home - Photo 4 of 20 -

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."  

In the living area, Mori pendants by Rich Brilliant Willing hang above an Erased Heritage rug by Jan Kath.

In the living area, Mori pendants by Rich Brilliant Willing hang above an Erased Heritage rug by Jan Kath.

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. 

Maximizing enjoyment of the view, a Sartoriale tub by Carlo Colombo with built-in shelving is placed against a floor-to-ceiling window in the master bath.

Maximizing enjoyment of the view, a Sartoriale tub by Carlo Colombo with built-in shelving is placed against a floor-to-ceiling window in the master bath.

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.

The light is so different here from in New York," says Reddy, who is opening an L.A. office later this year. "There, it has so much blue in it. Here, it has much more orange." A vintage El Monte lamp from Lawson-Fenning is paired with an Eames lounge in Will’s room.

The light is so different here from in New York," says Reddy, who is opening an L.A. office later this year. "There, it has so much blue in it. Here, it has much more orange." A vintage El Monte lamp from Lawson-Fenning is paired with an Eames lounge in Will’s room.

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." 

The modules’ steel beams are painted Folkstone 6005 by Sherwin-Williams, while the walls are Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. Vitsœ shelving by Dieter Rams holds books and curios.

The modules’ steel beams are painted Folkstone 6005 by Sherwin-Williams, while the walls are Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. Vitsœ shelving by Dieter Rams holds books and curios.

Shop the Look
Benjamin Moore Paint – Decorator's White
Benjamin Moore Paint – Decorator's White
This color is part of the Designer Classics Collection. Comfortable colors that can be chosen with confidence. The Designer Classics palette features 231 tried-and-true colors - timeless beauty you can integrate into a variety of design styles and decors.
Thomas Hayes Studio Boston Chair
Thomas Hayes Studio Boston Chair
An elegant metal frame lounge chair by Thomas Hayes Studio available in solid brass or steel. This piece features a pivoting back, floating wood paddle arms, and an upholstered seat. The angle of the back creates good lumbar support and each handcrafted chair is sturdy, comfortable, and versatile.
Molteni & C. 45°/Tavolino Table
Molteni & C. 45°/Tavolino Table
Ron Gilad’s new collection of furnishings, Grado°, underlines the designer’s interest in basic geometric shapes. 45°/tavolino.

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. 

The kitchen’s dark-stained oak millwork was made by Ernestomeda. Studio E&R made the custom handles from black walnut.

The kitchen’s dark-stained oak millwork was made by Ernestomeda. Studio E&R made the custom handles from black walnut.

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.

The appliances are by Miele and the Cojo stools are by Thomas Hayes.

The appliances are by Miele and the Cojo stools are by Thomas Hayes.

"I like that everything has its place—the idea of form and function coexisting." Will Arnett, resident

In the dining area, Mantis chairs by Les Ateliers Courbet and a banquette upholstered in Holly Hunt fabric surround a live-edge maple table by Camilla House. The custom pendant is by Lambert & Fils and the Pivot sconces are by Apparatus. 

In the dining area, Mantis chairs by Les Ateliers Courbet and a banquette upholstered in Holly Hunt fabric surround a live-edge maple table by Camilla House. The custom pendant is by Lambert & Fils and the Pivot sconces are by Apparatus. 

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.

Light streams into the master suite’s dressing room through glass panes by Western Window Systems. Clothes are stored in cabinets by Molteni&C; a rustic antique bench from Amber Interiors offers a place to suit up. 

Light streams into the master suite’s dressing room through glass panes by Western Window Systems. Clothes are stored in cabinets by Molteni&C; a rustic antique bench from Amber Interiors offers a place to suit up. 

"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.     

Evoking shou sugi ban, the cedar exterior has a Benjamin Moore Arborcoat stain. Steel-and-wood trellises provide relief from the sun. 

Evoking shou sugi ban, the cedar exterior has a Benjamin Moore Arborcoat stain. Steel-and-wood trellises provide relief from the sun. 

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.

Abutting the canyon, the narrow backyard has just enough space for a pool, a terrace, and a handful of Ninix loungers by Royal Botania. "Sitting out there, having dinner with all the doors open—that’s all I really want," says Will.

Abutting the canyon, the narrow backyard has just enough space for a pool, a terrace, and a handful of Ninix loungers by Royal Botania. "Sitting out there, having dinner with all the doors open—that’s all I really want," says Will.

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 fir flooring is by Dinesen. "Having worked with Will so much, I know he responds to a very calm and cool palette of beiges and grays," says Reddy.

The fir flooring is by Dinesen. "Having worked with Will so much, I know he responds to a very calm and cool palette of beiges and grays," says Reddy.

"The view doesn’t look like L.A. It looks like Tuscany." Will Arnett

The sunken playroom features a Cleon sofa by Blu Dot, a coffee table by Ligne Roset, and a pendant by Rich Brilliant Willing. 

The sunken playroom features a Cleon sofa by Blu Dot, a coffee table by Ligne Roset, and a pendant by Rich Brilliant Willing. 

Shop the Look
Blu Dot Cleon Small Sectional Sofa
Blu Dot Cleon Small Sectional Sofa
Cleon's three modular pieces are designed to let you configure and reconfigure your own perfect seating solution. Stick with your favorite or switch it up. The upholstered components of this small sectional sofa can be connected to create multiple size and shape possibilities.
Ligne Roset Pont Table
Ligne Roset Pont Table
Low table and console: formed glass, 1/2'' thick.
Rich Brilliant Willing Delta II Pendant
Rich Brilliant Willing Delta II Pendant
Since its debut in 2011, the versatile Delta pendants have remained a bestseller, with its hybrid lampshade that combines the traditional box pleat untraditionally paired with tapered openings.

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. 

A Murphy bed transforms Will’s library into a guest room. The P22 armchair by Patrick Norguet and Nuage shelving by Charlotte Perriand are both from Cassina. 

A Murphy bed transforms Will’s library into a guest room. The P22 armchair by Patrick Norguet and Nuage shelving by Charlotte Perriand are both from Cassina. 

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. 

The Boston chair by Thomas Hayes is upholstered in fabric from Cowtan & Tout. 

The Boston chair by Thomas Hayes is upholstered in fabric from Cowtan & Tout. 

"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."

A light lets guests know when Will is working in the recording booth.

A light lets guests know when Will is working in the recording booth.

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