Of more than 100 houses that Ray Kappe designed over his long and distinguished career, the one he designed for himself and his family in Los Angeles' Rustic Canyon is the most important.
Unlike most hillside homes, the Kappe house isn't tucked into the landscape. Rather, it runs along and above it, seeming to hover over the slope on Brooktree Road in the Palisades. The structural plan allows its 4,000 square feet of wood and glass to rest on laminated beams bolted to six massive, deep-set concrete towers.
Inside, the four bedrooms have doors, but the rest of the home is pure openness, individual spaces defined and quietly segregated by subtle changes in elevation. Described by one critic as "a controlled explosion of space," the Kappe residence has the quality of an atrium ingeniously adapted for work and play. The ceiling over the main family area is 14 feet high. Cushioned benches line the walls of areas meant for relaxation or conversation. Even the carpet is green, another choice made to pull the outdoors inside. The 1-foot-square ceramic tile used for the kitchen floor and walkways also is a subdued earthtone.
Standing in the kitchen, you can look one way and see through the window right into the ivy-covered hillside; look the other way and you are gazing over the well of the sunken lower living room and across to the ledge leading to what had been the children's wing of bedrooms and baths, now quarters for visiting grandchildren or other guests. The dining room is down a few steps from the kitchen so that it feels like a separate space and yet, with no walls, remains somewhat informal.
"Some people can't live like this. They want spaces that hug you," Kappe said. "But I always liked to push out. When I was small, I was always at the window."