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In the Santa Monica Mountains, call it a wrap
It was your typical 1960s stucco home -- like thousands of others just like it on the streets of Southern California. What sold Sascha Jovanovic was not the home itself, but its breathtaking view. "I knew I could fix the house," Jovanovic says, "but you can't install a view."
FOR THE RECORD:
Brentwood photo: An article in the Jan. 30 Home section about a Brentwood residence wrapped in a sun-reflecting fabric included an incorrect photo credit for one image taken from a distance, showing the house set on a tree-covered hillside. The photo should have been credited to Tate Lown, not Michael Weschler Photography. —
So he bought the Brentwood house, which steps down a Santa Monica Mountains hillside and opens to Malibu-to-Palos Verdes views, and he lived with uninspired architecture and an insufficient carport for five years before calling L.A. architect Lorcan O'Herlihy.
"At the time, I was considering building something from scratch so I could expand the living quarters and have a garage for the car," says Jovanovic, a dental surgeon. "I thought we would have to tear it down completely to make it feel like a new home."
O'Herlihy suggested another tactic: "How about a face-lift?"
Known for his innovative use of materials, the architect proposed keeping the basic footprint of the structure, then wrapping the home with a new skin.
"We did a comprehensive material research and came across this progressive, sustainable material, Textilene 90," O'Herlihy says, referring to a PVC-coated polyester fabric that resembles a tight white mesh. Formulated in the 1970s to withstand solar abuse and to reduce heat gain, the material had been used in upscale patio furniture before being employed in awnings, roller shades, sun screens and pet enclosures.
The product, which comes in 100-foot-long rolls that are 2 to 10 feet wide, blocks out 90% of the sun's damaging rays and is available in a variety of colors. O'Herlihy specified white, which he cut into 6- to 8-foot widths and mounted on custom steel frames that were powder-coated a snowy white. Then those frames were anchored into brackets embedded into the walls of the original stucco home.
"Basically it's a skin that hugs the existing building, then pulls away to enclose the balconies and walkways and outdoor spaces," the architect says.
On the front and rear of the home, cutouts in the screen provide additional views as well as nostalgic peeks at the stucco. The result: an ethereal dwelling that appears on the hillside at night like a glowing paper lantern.
This is not the first time O'Herlihy has created a second skin for a building. For the Silver Lake home of artist-illustrator Kevin MacCarthy and his wife, TV producer Lauren Lexton, the architect used HardiePanels, a fiber-cement horizontal siding. O'Herlihy tweaked the material, cutting panels into 6-inch-by-10-foot-long slats, then mounted them vertically 4 inches from the structure.
More recently, the architect used perforated and corrugated metal panels hung 4 feet away from an 11-unit apartment building in West Hollywood.
"In this case, the metal siding actually serves to add shade to the entrance and windows," says O'Herlihy, whose Formosa 1140 project won a 2009 design award from the American Institute of Architects' Los Angeles chapter.
A potential new project involves reformulating an existing home with a canvas mesh -- a tighter knit than the fabric used on the Jovanovic home -- for a pair of Los Angeles art collectors. The canvas would be painted by an artist like a giant installation.
"For architects, the exterior of a building is generally done in a single move," O'Herlihy says. "The idea of a second layer adds other possibilities. Wrapping the building thickens the boundaries between inside and outside and performs a role of securing the building as well as cutting down on heat and providing shade. It also gives the home more interest, as well as giving us an opportunity to work with other materials."
The white mesh certainly gives the Jovanovic house a new personality. Though Jovanovic declines to say how much he spent on interior renovations that include a new kitchen, whole-house audio-video system, flooring and closets, he will reveal that the new exterior came with an appealing price tag: The material ran $6,500, painted custom frames were $18,000 and labor was $23,000, for a total of $47,500.
O'Herlihy guesstimates that if the house had been torn down and started from scratch, it would have cost at least $500,000 more.
"New caissons into the bedrock alone would have been at least $300,000. By not having to build a new foundation and keeping the existing framing, plumbing and electrical, we were able to keep the costs way down."
And just how long will this ethereal shell last, you might wonder?
"We've never had it used in this particular application," says Jeff Frobose, business manager of the Twitchell Corp., which manufactures the product. "When Textilene 90 is used as a sunscreen on a window to block the sunlight, there's a 10-year limited warranty."
If the product deteriorates in 10 years, the client simply replaces the affected panel. "The custom steel frames should be good for at least a hundred years," O'Herlihy says.
Since the house was wrapped, Jovanovic's heating bills have gone down. Even better news for the doctor: He's married now and has someone with whom to share the view.