In 2013, two friends—Brett Woods and Joseph Dangaran—who studied architecture together at the University of Southern California opened their Los Angeles–based architecture firm Woods + Dangaran. Over the past seven years, their work has focused on the creation of residential projects that are not only beautiful by design, but also intentional and thoughtful with their footprints.
Starting out with such a strong business partnership, the duo was able to build their firm like a family. When it was time for Dangaran to start his own house, the team came together to help design and build a true space for his family to call home.
After Dangaran got married, he and his wife started looking at properties in the Los Angeles region. He envisioned ground-up construction that could show future clients the scope of the firm’s work, but he also wanted to demonstrate more complex principles that the firm believes in such as form follows function, axial relationships, and simplistic design.
“This project was really about how do we take high-end architecture and high-end construction and, in some ways, bring it to the masses,” says Dangaran. “It doesn’t have to look fancy on a sheet of paper to get really nuanced, beautiful spaces to live in. It can be quite simple and thereby cost effective.”
The couple found a piece of property in Culver City, blocks from where the “Wizard of Oz” was filmed, that had a home with an alley dating back to the 1930s or ’40s. With the intention to start new on the standard suburban tract lot measuring 120 feet long by 50 feet wide, the team quickly got to work and designed the 4,030-square-foot home with five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and one half bath in just two weeks.
Eventually dubbed the Culver City Case Study, the project overall aims to serve as a “prototype for exploring the potential for new custom homes within well-established Los Angeles suburbs,” says the firm. As a result, Dangaran and the team set out to create thoughtful indoor and outdoor spaces that seamlessly connected while providing his family privacy from the street, alley, and adjacent properties.
The Floor Plan
Construction for the home started in early 2017 with a slab-on-grade foundation, which helped ensure the seamless indoor-outdoor connections. Ceiling heights and additional dimensions were calculated to maximize efficiency and reduce cost and waste, and the rooms were sized to eliminate the need for steel columns and beams.
With an alley, the design team decided to put the 500-square-foot detached garage in the rear, in order to formalize the entry sequence off the street. From the front, spectators can witness the simple façade with an earth-toned exterior plaster shell, a glass front door on the right, and a pocket glass door on the left. The second-story was also intentionally pushed back roughly 20 feet to give it the appearance of a single-level home.
“We wanted it to be a really beautiful, simple façade,” says Dangaran. “We could have pushed the whole upper level forward if we wanted, but it was important from this view that the upper level is not overpowering the scale of the neighborhood.”
Entering through the front door and after a quick and subtle turn, guests will experience the openness of the central living space. The team designed the floor plan using two main axial relationships, one in the north-south direction in line with the cooktop, kitchen island, dining room, and outdoor living room, and one in the east-west direction in line with the breakfast nook, kitchen, family room, and two-story atrium. This creates extended views in all directions and enhances its connection with the outdoors.
Behind the glass pocket door from the front, Dangaran added a breakfast nook that faces east. Two medium-sized olive trees were planted to give a little bit of privacy without blocking the natural light that is provided by the sunrise every morning.
Blessed with warm Southern California weather, another goal for the home was to carve out some outdoor living spaces. The first is off the central dining area and in a direct sight path from the kitchen island. The space functions as a formal living room and is outfitted with simple lounge furniture and a fire pit and is accessed through a four-panel glass door that pockets for continuous open living.
The second outdoor connection is a two-story atrium off the family room, a space adjacent to the kitchen, that looks to the backyard. The atrium frames a 30-year-old Japanese black pine that adds a living sculptural element to the house.
Early in the design process, the team decided it wanted to maximize the number of bedrooms and did not think every bedroom needed its own en suite bath. On the lower level in the back of the home, users will find a guest bedroom and an office separated by a full bath. Upstairs, that part of the floor plan was repeated to be cost and structure efficient.
The master suite encompasses the other half of the upstairs, with a generous closet, bedroom, and bathroom centered around the two-story atrium. Natural light flows into the space from many angles, including skylights in the closet, over the bathtub, and over the shower and full window walls from the carved atrium below.
“We make exterior spaces really powerful by utilizing these framed openings,” says Dangaran.
In the daytime, no artificial lighting is needed to illuminate the home, and, at night, the family is able to admire the moon and stars in various rooms through the copious amount of skylights.
On the Woods + Dangaran firm website, the duo describes their work as “warmly modern,” and Dangaran’s home displays that theme well. Throughout the home, hard surfaces, like the exposed concrete floors on the first level, are balanced with warm accents. Whether it be a subtle wallpaper, neutral curtains, or the furniture, the firm was able to create warm, modern environments in every room with simple, minimalistic details.
“People often describe modern architecture as cold or not cozy, and we wanted to challenge a lot of those things,” he says.
The use of interior casework was an integral part of this project. From the kitchen and the built-ins in the office to the master bed niche and cabinetry closets, the firm utilized custom quarter sawn white oak cabinetry with brass hardware throughout to develop a consistent and elevated presence. Cabinetry was also installed in the hallway, or gallery per Dangaran, to make underutilized space more serviceable.
“It’s used in every single space, and, for us, it’s important that it is consistent because that consistency allows you to feel the overall presence of it but not be visually impacted in a negative way,” explains Dangaran.
Tile selections were also imperative to the design. In the kitchen, Dangaran decided to frame the kinetic and subtly dimensional backsplash with the cabinetry and purposefully integrated the cooktop hood into the ceiling to create an uninterrupted, symmetrical piece of art. Plus, showers in both the master bath and guest bathroom include stacked neutral tile collections that stretch from the floor to the ceiling to make simple, but intriguing statements.
“We have been very fortunate to be at home in this house for the past nine months during the pandemic,” concludes Dangaran. “I never would have been able to spend as much physical time in this house and learn from it than if the pandemic didn’t happen. To see some of these interior-exterior spaces really function throughout the day and the seasons has been really a special experience.”