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The flexible box.

Sleek art galleries and restaurants appear in architect Ted Tokio Tanaka's portfolio of recent work-and their spirit infuses the house he designed for himself and his wife in Venice, California. Like his commercial spaces, his house needed to serve some specific functions and simultaneously offer great flexibility.

On a lot in a mixed neighborhood of houses and apartments, Tanaka designed a white stucco box, using a 4-foot grid system. This allowed standard framing throughout and kept construction cost to $60 a square foot.

The streetside portion of the house is a two-story "mother-in-law" unit. Alongside it on the left, a walk leads to the front door and a concrete-floored, 20- by 35foot room, opening on one side to a garden patio. Four-foot-square skylights march the length of the 20-foot ceiling. Decorative scoring in the black concrete floor repeats Tanaka's 4-foot grid.

Defining the open kitchen at the rear is a curvy island of black concrete, which was poured in place. It's a gathering spot when Tanaka's wife, Diana Ho, prepares Chinese specialties. Above it is a sculptured bridge of cabinetry-sleek black with sliding glass doors on the kitchen side, white on the living room side.

On the kitchen's rear wall, Tanaka installed a commercial range. A separate wok is fueled by an auxiliary gas line. To meet the standards of restaurant fire codes, he surrounded the appliances with nonflammable materials: concrete floor, granite-tiled wall, and stainless steel counters and shelving.

At one end of the kitchen, a full-height corner pantry houses food and tableware; louvered doors hide the laundry. A stairway leads to the second-floor balcony between the master bedroom at the rear of the house and a bedroom, bath, and study loft at the front.

"An artist's loft in a garden," said Los Angeles lighting and furniture designer Ron Rezek, summing up the objective of his family home. The plan evolved when he and his wife, Julia, found their lotactually the garage-and-garden half of an old property that had been subdivided.

Both Rezek and consulting architect Michael Folonis of Santa Monica were intrigued with the potential of concrete and concrete block, and the choice of these materials fitted the intention to build economically. The plan that took shape aligned three modules side-by-side, thus cutting materials costs and construction time. The square-foot cost was $50.

The streetside module accommodates the garage downstairs and two children's bedrooms with shared bath upstairs. The central module is the 18 -foot-tall living room. The third contains dining area and kitchen, and a family room that extends into the garden in a curved bay; above are master bedroom (with a deck atop the bay), bath, and dressing areas.

Rezek positioned the central module for views of established landscaping, thus determining the siting of the entire house. A grid of custom-made aluminum-frame windows-used throughout the houseencloses the south-facing "view" end of the room. Concrete blocks form the massive fireplace and the room's north wall, where a grand stair ascends to both bedroom areas. (Rezek had all the block sandblasted to enhance its texture.) Side walls are clean planes of gypsum board, sculpted into interior balconies-one angular and one curved.

The polished concrete floor contains radiant heating, so it isn't cold like most concrete surfaces. (In winter, the sun deeply penetrates the two-story space; the higher summer sun does not intrude.) Overhead, custom-welded steel bow trusses support the vaulted ceiling of tongue-and-groove planks.
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Title Annotation:house design
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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