Home security gets arty with nature-inspired gate and window designs

A gate and border for a West Hollywood patio.
(David Hollen)

Who wants to live in a slammer? Home security has never been an artful enterprise — few choices exist outside jailhouse grills that seem to incarcerate homeowners rather than block intruders.

Enter sculptor David Hollen, who creates nature-inspired gate and window screen designs that may have thieves snapping photos instead of latches. Built primarily from three-sixteenths-inch plate steel, the structures riff on nature found in homeowners’ own backyards.

Hollen works from his HollenArt Studio in downtown Los Angeles and has built nearly a dozen security projects, priced from $2,000 for small window screens to more than $12,000 for larger gates, not including outsourced installation costs.

Pasadena homeowner Doug Hammett has commissioned six projects. The most striking is a side “tree gate” topped with a tumble of sharply pointed maple leaves that are both beautiful and dangerous.


“There had been some theft in the neighborhood, and instead of just getting a gate from Home Depot, I thought, how can I do this aesthetically?” said Hammett, 53, an artist.

Sharp-edged steel maple leaves top a steel gate.
(David Hollen)

Hollen designed the $5,000 gate 15 years ago and recently added the steely maple leaves on top ($1,800) and along an adjacent fence ($3,500) which reference Hammett’s backyard Chinese maples.

“I got the idea by looking at dried fallen leaves and the tips that get rather pointy,” said Hollen, 56, who’s also working on an oak leaf design.

He designed a variety of leaf shapes and sizes and welded them onto the gate and onto a metal strip bolted to the side fence. The artist primes and then paints his work with the industrial finish “architectural bronze,” a warmer alternative to stark black.

A water theme permeates other works in Hammett’s home: a $5,000 “wave gate” references artist Katsushika Hokusai’s turbulent wave motifs, and a $7,000 Dutch door pays homage to another Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, and her passion for polka dots, circles and bubble-like forms.

A slim 7-foot-tall window screen resembles a rippled pond struck with pebbles ($3,500). Monkey silhouettes play among concentric whirls on two kitchen window grates ($3,500 total). The overlapping rings are designed to prevent hands from reaching through the screens.

“The bane of this kind of work are 5-year-olds who jump up and climb on it,” said Hollen, who’s also designing back-patio features for Union Station’s Traxx restaurant. “A gate has to bear weight and stay within code so kids can’t stick their heads through and get stuck.”

A silhouetted monkey plays among concentric steel rings.
(David Hollen)

Other work is more decoratively functional: A $12,500 gate resembles a tree flanked by meadow grasses and flowers. The structure hems in a West Hollywood couple’s front-entrance patio (it keeps their cat inside).

Hollen hand-draws his designs in a raster program, converting them to a vector, a kind of blueprint read by an outsourced laser cutter that cuts the patterns. Both the design work and its execution are exacting.

“I’m working within intolerances of 5,000ths of an inch, about the thickness of a piece of paper,” he said.


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