Architect Roger Sherman took a steeply sloping site in Santa Monica and built a family home for himself that allows him to work – and play. Sherman who founded his studio in 1990, is also the co-director of cityLAB, an urban think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Architecture. You can also find four of his home designs at Hometta. I asked him about his award-winning home.
You’ve designed your home, known as the 3-in-1 House, to accommodate not only your family, but also your office and a tenant. Can you tell us why that was important to you? For me, it was an exploration of the post-suburban condition: how to reconcile suburban “wants” with the necessity of paying for those (what are now) luxuries, especially in an expensive area like L.A.’s westside. That meant figuring out where economies might exist, for instance, building a smaller house with rental unit to provide mortgage subsidy and dedicating part of the house to office use, rather than paying additional rent on an office elsewhere (at least while still a start-up), as well as fuel costs, etc.
The architecture of the project–its spatial complexity and interest–seemed to naturally flow from solving those problems, reconciling the conflicts they posed in innovative ways. As a result, I like to say that the house is in some ways a vision of what the new realities of suburbia might/should soon look like.
The office is on the ground floor and shares space with the rest of the house. How does that work in terms of privacy? There is a rather unique pivoting door just inside the main vestibule, which the office shares with the house: during weekdays, the door is swung out to engage the opposite wall of the entry hall, closing off access to the house and diverting visitors into the office. In the evenings and on weekends, the door is closed and concealed in the office wall, hiding the office from view and allowing people to continue into the house. The office also has two full-height wall panels which open to the front desert garden and street.
The office is closely linked to the dining area which is, in turn, open to the kitchen. How does each space interact? The dining area, which is the least used space of most American homes, is in ours actually designed as a swing space to do double duty as a conference area for the office during the day. We only use it for dinner parties on weekends primarily, so there is little if any conflict. At those times, the curtain is pulled closed, and it acts as a very nice backdrop.
There is a linear shelving element which ties together all three spaces, like a piece of domestic infrastructure. In the studio, it serves as a model/display shelf; as it moves into the conference/dining area, it is used as part children’s picture rail, part bar, and part presentation easel (office). And when it turns down to cross between dining and kitchen, it is simultaneously plate-and-glassware cabinet for the kitchen, and buffet for the dining area. It also holds the under-cabinet lighting for the kitchen counters.
The house was completed in 2003. You’ve been living in it now for about 7 years. Is there anything you’d do differently? Have you made any changes? Yes! I would have tried to plan for other “after use” scenarios such as what else the office might be now that it is becoming too small to accommodate the growing business–such as a guest room, library, etc. And the same for rental unit.
What your favorite desk accessory – something you couldn’t do without? Call me a luddite, but since I still use a Filofax and sketchbook, without a doubt it’s my Liquid Paper correction pen, to handle all changes to my schedule and sketches.
Photo credit: Tom Bonner Photography