Los Angeles architects Silvia Kuhle and Jeffrey Allsbrook of Standard share their east-side home, tracing the design aesthetic back to their shared German roots.
Your design studio – Standard – is based in Los Angeles and in your work your European roots seemed to have merged with a particularly modern Californian aesthetic giving both a warmth and a rigor that is really striking. Can you give us a bit of background – you both studied architecture in Germany. How do you think that has influenced your work in California? We met in Germany, and while we went to different schools there, it was like an intersection in our studies. We both went to architecture school in the US as well, but on opposite coasts. In American schools the emphasis is on process and forms but in Germany the modernist project continues to be an influence; our work reflects some of that idealism. When we started to work together in Los Angeles, the dominant trend was to create new form. We were more interested in creating space, and in LA’s modern history. Early in our practice, we had the opportunity to work on a couple of projects that were interiors combined with landscapes, so we designed from the inside out. We worked with materials, openings in walls, views, and light; and less with the outward appearance of the building.
Your own home, aptly dubbed “The Tree House” is perched on a steep hill on the east side of Los Angeles. How did that site influence your design? We had lived on the site for about seven years before we started the project, so we understood the site well and we knew how we wanted to live there.
We wanted the house to be under the tree’s canopy, and to create the living space there. The south orientation and expansive views led us to open the house up on that side, and to keep the back more solid.
The material palette is very restrained – concrete, redwood and white cabinetry with marble in the bathrooms. How do you go about making those choices? We wanted to balance the materials and create contrast. In the main living space we defined the perimeter with white walls and cabinets, so the wood in the center of the room looks more like built-in furniture. It is a small house and the approach to materials and the glass help make it feel more expansive.
The home includes a desk/work area in the master bedroom. Do you find your work life spills over into your home life? Our work spills into our home life probably a little too much, and thankfully, this desk is rarely used for work.
What inspires you in your work? Silvia: New York, aged finishes, vast (higher altitude) landscapes, Rick Owen’s fashion, Edith Heath’s ceramics (below).
Jeff: Furniture design: Charlotte Perriand, Joe Colombo, Jean Royere. Automotive design: Alfa Sprint Speciale, classic Bertone designs. The architecture of Jose Antonio Coderch (below Coderch’s Casa Ulgade, Barcelona 1953) , Mies van der Rohe’s early work.
Photos: Shots of Silvia and Jeff’s home by Benny Chan/fotoworks.