Step Inside a Delightful Los Angeles Home Designed to Frame Hillside Views

Peggy Hsu and Chris McCullough, principals of the architecture firm Hsu McCullough, “went through hundreds of floor plans to maximize sight lines”

Ask most Angelenos about Fossil Ridge Park and they’ll probably draw a blank. The paleon­tological site, named for its abundance of fossilized marine life dating back some 10 million years, is tucked in the mountains above Sherman Oaks, off the beaten path and familiar largely to people who live, work, or go to school in the vicinity. Peggy Hsu and Chris McCullough, principals of the LA-based architecture firm Hsu McCullough, are fortunate to have a front-row seat on the natural wonder. They designed their two-story house to frame particular vistas not only of Fossil Ridge but also of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Fernando Valley floor. “We wanted to live in a hillside community with views,” explains Hsu, a native of Taiwan who moved to LA in her high school years. “We went through hundreds of floor plans to maximize sight lines.”

Dining room long gold table orange chair art work of Notorious BIG made from cassette casesMcCullough’s pixelated portrait of The Notorious B.I.G. commands the dining area; custom brass table and log bench. Photo: Joe Fletcher

Their house is something of a “business in the front, party in the back” affair. The business part of the equation involved the need to foster privacy on the street-facing façade, which the couple addressed with a dramatic brise-soleil of western red cedar cut into 15-foot-tall boards. Detached from the main body of the house, the screen element makes room for a cloistered exterior entry stair off the driveway while allowing natural light to penetrate into the interior. The full volumetric brio of the architectural composition reveals itself at the back of the house, where pocketing glass walls on the first level and floor-to-ceiling glazing on the second open the structure to the landscape in a generous embrace.

Bathroom black tile green farmhousestyle sink painting of a girlA vintage farm sink refinished in Farrow & Ball’s Arsenic anchors a powder room with walls covered in matte black tiles by Daltile. Photo: Dan Arnold 

The brawny materiality of Hsu McCullough’s composition buttresses the all-important indoor-outdoor connection, with certain elements (flooring of irregular Indian black slate, a spine wall of seeded stucco) slipping inside to out. Throughout the house, moody materials—such as black brick, tile, and painted boards of reclaimed wood—are juxtaposed with planes of white oak, walnut, unfinished sheet brass, and slabs of Calacatta Viola marble. “We weren’t afraid of dark moments to underscore the moments of dramatic natural light,” McCullough says of the architectural chiaroscuro. “We use creative daylighting to nurture different kinds of experiences from one area to the next.”


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