The LADG’s Highland Park Ranch-House Redux

A series of structures built around a midcentury home in Los Angeles offers a contemporary update on classic California living.
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The Los Angeles Design Group (LADG) has created an array of new structures into nine bays—which combine live-work and indoor-outdoor space—around an existing house. Courtesy Saam Gabbay

Certain lifestyle and professional patterns began to emerge as Claus Benjamin Freyinger and Andrew Holder, founding principals of the Los Angeles Design Group (LADG), were working on some residential commissions across the city.

Take, for instance, the firm’s project internally dubbed “House in Los Angeles 1,” nestled in the hilly neighborhood of Highland Park, an area marked by gentrification and demographic shifts. Here, the directive was to add a guesthouse, a studio, and a hybrid carport/exhibition space. The clients, a painter and a photographer, wanted a compound built around their existing midcentury home. The resulting residence is one of several by the LADG that appear to rethink the dynamic between the practical reality and the fantasy associated with Southern Californian living.

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Constructed for a local artist couple, the buildings cohere thanks to a spare palette of low concrete walls and exposed wood skeletal frames. Plantings are similarly sparse and rugged. Courtesy Injinash Unshin

Despite what Freyinger calls a “subversion of the suburban model,” the firm draws inspiration from Cliff May, the godfather of the ranch house. Now it is mining the style’s ongoing resonance and functionality for a new clientele.

“We’re limited to humble materials,” Holder continues. Prominent angled elements on the exterior, which support the standing seam roofs, “have a posture,” while subtle wood-grain patterns on the concrete “give it almost a damask stripe.” The LADG used plywood in areas of the interior and troweled stucco walls to a smooth finish.

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Courtesy Injinash Unshin

“I think there was a period when the ‘L.A. ranch house’ was a designation of low status and a certain kind of cheapness,” Holder says. “Now I think it’s associated with a pleasant informal living arrangement and a sensitivity to context.”

You may also enjoy “A Steel Exoskeleton Distinguishes a Suburban London House in a Sea of Tudor Revivals.“

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Categories: Residential Architecture