The Bungalow Grows Up
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
José Fontiveros was born in Caracas, Venezuela, but his professional roots run deep in Southern California. After completing studies at SCI-Arc and the University of California, Los Angeles, a dozen years ago, he set up his practice. Sintesi Design, as in synthesis, has since left its mark on residences in Venice and Manhattan Beach as well as Marina del Rey, where he recently rebuilt a house with an eco bent.
The directive from owners David and Tina Bonrouhi, a financial consultant and an occupational therapist, sounded like a design oxymoron: Take a bungalow from the 1940's, and turn it into something contemporary yet related to its modest neighborhood of other single-story houses. Undaunted, Fontiveros proceeded to do just that—at $150 per square foot.
Discovering a west-facing vista of picture-perfect sunsets was the catalyst for tearing down virtually the entire structure, with its meager windows. Retaining little more than the footprint, Fontiveros maximized those palmy views with a design that incorporates a second story and plenty of glass. "Opening up the front of the house and the front yard created an appropriate relationship between the interior and exterior," he says. "Transparent is more democratic." Politics aside, the glass combines with cement-board and teak to enclose a 1,800-square-foot geometric showpiece, topped by modernism's flat roof.
The kitchen, despite its relative smallness, rules the open-plan ground floor—that's how strong the impact is. Cabinetry is veneered in cherrywood and accented by counters in a charcoal-gray quartz composite and hardware in brushed stainless steel. The cooktop is set into a unit that runs beneath a huge window, fully 9 feet wide. "If the window's open and the Bonrouhis are cooking Italian, everyone in the neighborhood wants to come over for dinner," Fontiveros says.
Along the adjacent wall, higher cabinetry houses the refrigerator, oven, and microwave, all stainless. The cabinets not only stop 1 foot short of the ceiling but also stand 8 inches above the floor, on aluminum legs—a combined move that yields a floating feel. Because space was tight, Fontiveros extended the island round a corner, under the stairs.
Materials and finishes, chosen with the help of Anna Piwonska, give more than a passing nod to sustainability. Most flooring is bamboo; the rest is oversize squares of white ceramic, which has inherent thermal assets and a high recycled content. Paint is zero-VOC. Light fixtures are CFL or standard fluorescent. Appliances are Energy Star–rated. The double-glazed windows are low-E glass.
The main green move, however, came courtesy of planning.
With the interior organized around an atrium featuring two operable skylights, rising heat can escape easily and daylight can stream in.
Upstairs, the atrium is flanked by the master suite and the two children's bedrooms, sharing a bath. The two opposite sides connect via abridge with a balustrade of steel-framed panels of a clear channeled polycarbonate commonly used for skylights. The same product reappears on the dining area's ceiling—but with a twist: Fontiveros filled the channels with a sparkling mixture of white sand and green, blue, and clear glass shards. "We broke bottles on the job site," he recounts.
The focal point of the open-plan master suite is the bathing area, where the tub is sunken into a bamboo-clad platform. Behind it, a doorway leads mysteriously to a separate room that turns out to be the WC—a steel-and-glass sliver that cantilevers over the driveway. "Voyeuristic or exhibitionist?" Fontiveros questions. Take your pick.