LOS ANGELES BUILDER TIM Lefevre of Lefevre Corp. is here to tell you that building spectacular attached housing isn't more difficult—or that much more expensive—than putting up mediocre buildings. And he's got the story behind Harper Court: Seven Fountains to prove his point.

“It all starts with the client,” says Lefevre, who worked in close conjunction with both Boyd Willat of Angel's Landing, the property owner and developer, and the architecture firm of Moule & Polyzoides. “Boyd provided the financial backing, the land, and the conceptual and artistic tone, and then he basically let us all go crazy.”

Many thought Willat was the crazy one when he opted to build only 20 apartments on a site that was entitled for 38 units, but that turned out to be a key developmental issue. “With that relatively low density, we were able to execute one of these projects properly rather than putting up bad knock-offs,” says Lefevre.

“One of these projects” means courtyard housing, a building type that has a long history in Los Angeles, and one that is dear to architect Stefanos Polyzoides, coauthor of Courtyard Housing in Los Angeles: A Typological Analysis. Urban courtyard housing, which had its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s in Los Angeles, consists of buildings of varying masses centered around courtyards, which were often filled with plantings and fountains.

The result is an eclectic mix of units, all with different floor plans. Each apartment has its own private garden overlooking public courtyards as well as a separate, directly accessed live/work space. Throw in amenities such as a boardroom with tele-conferencing facilities and a corporate VIP package and you can see why the units have become a favorite with high-powered business executives.

Rent for the apartments, which average 1,600 square feet, range from a whopping $3,500 to a staggering $7,000 per month. “The financial success of this project has been hysterical,” says Polyzoides.

It just goes to show, says Lefevre, that leaving 18 units on the table was a wise business decision. “We spent no more than 20 percent more on this project than we would have on a standard, run-of-the-mill apartment building,” he adds. “But the rents are easily more than 20 percent higher.”

CATEGORY: Live/Work; ENTRANT/ARCHITECT/ LAND PLANNER: Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists, Pasadena, Calif.; BUILDER: Lefevre Corp., Los Angeles; DEVELOPER: Angel's Landing, Los Angeles; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Nicholas Graham Garden Designer, Los Angeles

Builder Tip Fountain Focus Building a fountain is just not that hard, says builder Tim Lefevre, so forget about hiring those high-priced water consultants. “You bring in a specialist to build a fountain and it's going to look like Vegas—which is something we didn't want,” says Lefevre. “We did all seven fountains with plumbers and concrete guys using off-the-shelf components. The guts of a fountain is just being able to circulate water, so if you've got the ability to set tile and concrete, it's pretty simple. There's a lot of talent out there, especially in the world of basic carpentry, that goes underutilized here in California.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.