Small House, Small Firm, Big Award

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Photo Art Gray

Photo Art Gray

If anyone is wondering, that is the homeowner’s surfboard propped up against the patio wall of this Hermosa Beach House. Thus, the name, Surfhouse.

This tiny house fits three—husband, wife and baby. However, when the home but was concept only, just a 22 x 28 spot tightly squeezed between two houses, it was only the couple. At that time, they called Austin Kelly of XTEN Architecture to inquire if he was in their shoes, would he purchase it.

“Basically, it was the size of a nice garage,” Kelly said. The question was how does one address living in a space that small? But based on the conversation, the couple took a chance and purchased the house and a year later, called Kelly to get to work. Typical lots in the Hermosa Beach area measure 120’ x 40.’ The project budget was equally restrictive, being constructed for $310 per square foot. Kelly and crew approached this project by subtracting the larger program areas from a solid volumetric form which conformed to the zoning regulations and sought to maximize space, light and views while also creating a sense of privacy and retreat for the young owners on a busy beachside street.

The structure is stacked vertically on the lot. Services and bedrooms are on the lower floors, with larger rooms pushed to the corners for light and views in multiple directions. The top floor and decks are completely open as continuous indoor/outdoor living spaces open to the beach and ocean. The façade is made from rough sawn, black stained cedar planks with volumetric openings at primary program spaces and a system of identical vertical casement windows arrayed across the secondary elevations for specific views and ventilation. The interior is all light and air, with bamboo floors and walls of glass that slide away to bring the beach environment inside. This residence appears as an abstract block of ebonized cedar. “In my head I had a gray atmosphere,” said Kelly, as he used his visions and memories the Hamptons, as a point of inspiration—bringing the east coast to the west.

As for the inhabitants, we can only assume they live happily ever after in this personally-designed home. After all, who wouldn’t if their home was a 2012 AIACC Merit Award?

Click here for more information on XTEN Architecture.


Shannon Calder

Shannon Calder, a Sacramento-based writer, joined the AIACC in 2013. She is the author of, “Jack and Abigail Make a Compass,” a novel about people, birds, and orchids. She spends her days both on and off hours, looking for connection, which is a good hobby to have when linking the value of design to public perception.

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