Heart of Palm
Sustainable wood and sensational art define George Yu's addition to a 1920's Los Angeles bungalow
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Before they met, Michael O. and Sirje Helder Gold had each been buying art. They made their first purchase as a couple in 1969: The official starter of their joint collection was Girl With Hoop, a slightly naive bronze-and-acrylic sculpture by Juan Nickford.
At first, all was well and good. Both advertising creative directors, the Golds had ample space in their 3,000-square-foot suburban Connecticut house for a growing trove of contemporary pieces, mostly by New York and international artists. But everything changed in 1995.
Moving West solo at the behest of Grey Global Group, Michael Gold says, he discovered Los Angeles to be a "fertile place for young art." And he started filling up his 1920's Spanish colonial bungalow in Hancock Park. When his wife finally followed him to L.A. seven years later—leaving her advertising consultancy behind—she brought most of the East Coast part of the Gold collection with her. Suddenly, the 1,650-square-foot bungalow was positively overflowing with art.
Daring in their acquisitions, husband and wife were equally bold when it came to expanding on the bungalow's 1990 single-story addition. After meeting George Yu at an opening for artist Dara Friedman, they confidently tapped his namesake architecture firm—which had extensive retail and office credits but was a relative neophyte when it came to the art world. "Michael and Sirje took a leap of faith," Yu says.
The architect had no problem handling the project's art-display factor. What he did have trouble with was the city planning department, which was against anything contemporary invading a traditional neighborhood. So Yu resorted to camouflage.
Even though the 1,100-square-foot addition is two stories tall, it's built directly behind the bungalow, leaving only the top half of the pale gray volume visible from the street. Indeed, if it weren't for a trio of geometric apertures, hinting at what's inside, the facade would virtually dissolve into the sky above the bungalow's barrel-tiled roof, covered in Boston ivy. "I hid the new architecture from the front, revealing it only in the rear," Yu explains.
Foyer, kitchen, living room, and dining room remain up front, in the bungalow. "You progress through the small scale of the existing house. . .and then it explodes," Yu continues. That's 'because the dining room opens up to a 26-foot-long double-height skylit gallery—which runs through the center of the addition, all the way to a glazed wall in back, facing the pool.
The gallery's white walls and its floor of sustainable palm wood, the addition's dominant material, create a showcase for the three-dimensional work that Michael Gold favors: a canary-yellow biomorphic fiberglass form on a 7-foot-tall white pedestal, a suspended fiber sculpture in the arte povera mode. Paintings come under the aegis of his wife. On one end wall, Kim Dingle's dynamic Falling Baby seems to be tumbling headlong toward Peter Halley's precisely orthogonal Green Prison.
Beyond the gallery, the scale diminishes but only a bit. Running along the rear glass wall—composed of 15-foot-high frame- less panels—is a short corridor, a narrow box punctuated by tangerine-painted steel support columns. At the center of what the Golds refer to as their "atrium" stands a totem pole of western red cedar flanked by two other sculptures, a shiny black acrylic orb and a mass of willow branches and steel.
This atrium corridor leads on one side to the original master bedroom, now a guest room, and on the other to a switch-back stairwell, where palm paneling takes over. "The atmosphere goes from open and light to compressed, dark, and intimate," Yu notes. Upstairs, the paneling extends into another gallery space, a sort of art-filled anteroom for the new master suite—where, he continues, "You reenter the light and white."
The Golds' flying carpet of an orange bed faces the upstairs gallery and overlooks the main gallery below. Photography, paintings, and sculpture fill the bedroom itself, too. Even the suite's bathroom is a venue for art. Here, between the freestanding tub and the granite-topped vanity, stands the Golds' first purchase, Girl With Hoop. These days, her outstretched arms act as a towel bar.