Los Angeles architect Christopher Mercier unifies Smashbox co-founder Davis Factor’s environment.
It began as a relatively modest project. Photographer, director and co-founder of Smashbox Studios and Smashbox cosmetics Davis Factor wanted a few improvements for his 3,000-square-foot, circa 1959 hillside home in Los Angeles. Architect Christopher Mercier, AIA, did a design for a carport addition, a new home gym, and a pool and deck that would be complementary to the home’s post-and-beam modernist style. Then the project scope did a 180.
“We were literally under construction,” recalls Mercier, founder of (fer)studio “then Davis bought the house next door.” Mercier hit the pause button and went back to the drawing board with Factor to decide what to do with the newly expanded 1.5-acre property.
Factor, the great-grandson of cosmetics icon Max Factor, had apparently long pondered the possibility of adding guest quarters, and the acquisition of the neighboring property quickly turned possibility into reality. “Rather than looking at this as an addition, we decided to now look at it as a whole-property project,” says Mercier, whose firm handles a variety of residential, commercial, hospitality and retail projects. “We wanted to create a larger, unifying environment, incorporating both indoors and out.”
Factor, the great-grandson of cosmetics icon Max Factor, had apparently long pondered the possibility of adding guest quarters, and the acquisition of the neighboring property quickly turned possibility into reality.
Factor worked with Mercier to program the new space, wanting not only a guest bedroom, but an open space for indoor/outdoor entertaining, as well as photo shoots.
Instead of building a separate guest house, Mercier suggested “engaging with the original house” by connecting the new guest quarters to the old—but providing a clear line of separation. Inspired by the original home’s wood post-and-beam construction, the architect designed the 2,700-square-foot guest house with a metal post-and-beam framework, placing it next to the original house. He connected the old and the new rooflines to create a new entrance between the two houses, where glass sliding doors can open to unify the two buildings as one open space or close shut for privacy.
Towards the newly configured driveway, the guest house is screened with decorative aluminum mesh, which provides privacy for the smaller windows of the guest house during the day and glows, lantern-like, by day. The back of the guest house features floor-to-ceiling window walls—as an homage to the old house—which also overlook the Valley below and open onto the backyard pool patio. A board-formed concrete wall bisects the guest house, dividing it between the public space—which includes an open living area, game room and kitchen/bar—and the guest bedroom and bath.
Mercier detailed the exterior with rusted steel elements and defined the new roofline with a stainless-steel fascia. Inside, the polished concrete flooring and exposed concrete walls are softened with walnut cabinetry and millwork. In the bedroom, a wall interspersed with slot windows and mirrored rectangles, is clad with a mix of slate and bluestone, creating a dramatic, textured backdrop for the bed. The bathroom includes a floating, horizontal stretch of mirrored cabinetry above the vanity and a shower with a glass ceiling and glass wall that overlooks a small, landscaped courtyard.
Interior designer Sarah Buxton suggested furnishings with simple lines, a vintage appeal and low profiles to keep the focus on the views, underscoring furniture groupings with contemporary area rugs, which also serve to soften the guest house.
The outdoor living spaces were as important as the indoors, says Mercier. “We had started building the new pool and deck behind the old house when the guest house project came along. We simply extended the pool and the decking to connect both spaces.” The elongated pool has a deeper, swimming end by the original house and a shallower, made-for-sunbathing end by the guest house. A stepping-stone bridge across the pool is lined up exactly with the new entry between the two houses and creates a shortcut between the two sides of the ipe wood deck, where multiple furniture groupings are meant for dining and lounging.
Mercier worked with landscape designer Victoria Pakshong to unify the forest-like hillside, dense with eucalyptus, above the house with the more clipped, minimalist plantings closer to the old and new parts of the residence. A series of natural, railroad tie-edged steps wind up and down the hillside through the trees and newly planted grasses and agaves, connecting to home’s auto court, done in concrete, grass and permeable Grasscrete. Neat rectangles of grass and low shrubs around the pool don’t interfere with the vistas.
“The new guest house works on multiple levels,” says Mercier, summing up the project. “Davis can entertain large groups or host overnight guests. He can work in there, or just enjoy the space by himself.”