M.H. Lair, Montecito Heights, 2023
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Saturday, October 28th, 4pm-6pm
Discussion with Architect Claret-Cup

M.H. Lair is a new, contemporary single-family residence on a steep uphill lot in Montecito Heights, Los Angeles.

The physical restrictions of the site, the hillside building code, and the surrounding views were the main inspiration for the folded geometry of the three-story house as it zig zags from the street below to the top of the site. The house seems to evolve out of the ground and the main living spaces are organized around an existing coral tree. The black cinder block ribbon wall is the backbone of the house: it acts as a sound barrier, orients the view towards the outside, and clarifies the layout of the rooms.

The project employs reconfigurable borders and material continuity between outside and inside to expand the living space beyond the exterior walls. The main level courtyard and covered outdoor patio become an extension of the split-level dining area and sunken living room by opening two sets of folding doors. Modular wooden boxes with linoleum tops can be used as steps or seating and create a fluid topology between the two areas. The living room can be further expanded by folding the railing over the stairs to the lower level, creating two separate living areas.

On the second floor, an outdoor bathtub becomes a calm lookout over the neighboring hills from the primary suite and can be screened off if needed with a curtain that spans the entire length of the balcony. The outdoor wood floor extends into the indoor sleeping area, up the walls of the bathroom, and into the shower.

Through a procession of stairs that start at the entrance by the garage, the circulation path winds in and out of the landscape and branches into the house. It evokes a nature trail, leading through caves (there is the sound of pebbles underfoot in the first courtyard), entering through the guest unit and spilling back out to the landscape at the courtyard level entertainment space. It ends at the primary suite at the very top.

Accented planes of paint at stairs and paths, reminiscent of the De Stijl movement, emphasize and vary the appearance of this space.


Photography: Content Production

Structural Engineer: Nous Engineering

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Claret-Cup MH Lair-1
Caption: Black CMU ribbon wall supporting middle and upper floor volumes, and creating a datum for the project, running continuously from outside, to inside, to outside again. view from the middle level roof deck.
Photo credit: Content Production

Claret-Cup MH Lair-2
Caption: The geometry of the house was designed around an existing Coral Tree on site, which is the defining element of the middle level courtyard, viewed from the sunken living room.
Photo credit: Content Production

Claret-Cup MH Lair-3
Caption: Sunken Living room with black CMU ribbon wall continuing to middle level entertainment deck
Photo credit: Content Production

Claret-Cup MH Lair-4
Caption: Details of the wood paneling wrapping the primary bath walls
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-5
Caption: Sunken gravel courtyard with landscaped hillside and CMU ribbon wall
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-6
Caption: The upper level bathtub deck immersed in the landscape
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-7
Caption: Prototypes of the bespoke folded metal handrail on concrete and glass
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-8
Caption: The middle level roof shaped around the existing Coral Tree
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-9
Caption: Details of the triangular roof geometry
Photo credit: Claret-Cup

Claret-Cup MH Lair-10
Caption: The middle level ribbon window as seen from the back yard
Photo credit: Content Production

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