Immersed In Nature
A ‘treetop’ home nestles within the splendor of its hillside terrain
A sea of ceiling-to-floor glass seamlessly connects the Mission Hills home of architects Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines to the canyon paradise that’s like a personal aviary in their back yard.
“When you walk in and open all the sliding-glass pocket doors, right away the house feels like a gateway to the canyon,” Ricardo says. “It’s a setup of living where the house is performing with the canyon.”
Dwelling in an aerie among the treetops is not a new sensation for the architects. For 15 years, they resided with their children in the home next door — a house that had been renovated many times and had neighboring homes running along one side. In contrast, the adjacent lot offered Taal and Ricardo a chance to design a new home, completely open to the flora of the valley while also more secluded.
“One of our big things is privacy,” Taal says. “We have a large wall in the front of the house, and the window is located so no one can see us from the street. Our front yard has pomegranate, guava and apple trees and planters with hanging vines, so everything feels green and lush. From the front of the house, we are in our [manmade] canyon world and not open to the street. On the other side, the house opens up to the natural canyon. We let the canyon in and let the house bleed into it.”
From the entrance, the home unfolds its way into the view from an open expanse of living, kitchen and dining areas just to the south of the front door and down a few steps. Simplicity of materials (Indian French Vanilla slate flooring, concrete countertops, eucalyptus cabinetry and cross-cut birch stair treads) brings as much fluidity to the home as its openness. Happy orange, red and ochre lend intimacy, warmth and comfort.
Although it’s a modest house, there are five bedrooms on two separate levels. Clean-lined and humble, they allow nature’s glory to be the star of the show through all-embracing, floor-to-ceiling, glass pocket doors.
Taal and Ricardo’s agenda for the master bedroom was a tad different. Because only one of their children still lives at home, they decided to forego a family room and indulge themselves with a bigger bedroom suite — larger than the one at their previous residence, but still unpretentious.
“This house is a whole-day experience,” Ricardo says. “We wake up to the early light in the master bedroom and end the day with light on the west. It feels warm all day. We have our morning coffee in the front courtyard, and then there’s the little table near the kitchen for breakfast. We eat lunch at the kitchen counter. By six, we can go down to the canyon for drinks and appetizers and then come back to the dining room, enclosed in glass, for dinner.”
The dining room’s mirror reflects the back courtyard plants, so that, even on a cool evening when the glass doors are shut, diners feel as though they are eating alfresco. When daylight is extended in the summer, main meals might be served at the adjacent outdoor dining space, and dessert might follow on any of several decks that perch along canyon edges.
From that lofty seating in native greenery bliss, imagination places the viewer under an enchanting rainforest canopy.
“The way the sun filters in through the trees and trellises, the moving shadows it creates, we love that,” Taal says. “The more sun in the house, the better. Sometimes people are worried that their furniture will get bleached out. Not us. We
just love sunlight.”