Archives For Los Angeles art

Detroit native William Baker, founder of LAModernHome, moved to California from Chicago in 2005 after his international design company relocated him to the West Coast. After a short stint in Newport Beach, William landed in Los Angeles and immediately felt at home amongst the eclectic modern real estate, diverse cultures, art, music, food, and fashion of the most contemporary city on Earth. Because of his background in design, William has also always been inspired by architecture, most specifically, the famous mid-century modern homes of Los Angeles. In 2006, William bought his own mid-century modern (1962, John L. Pugsley, AIA) in Montecito Heights with Deasy/Penner as his agent. Excited by this process with Deasy/Penner and the energy in Los Angeles’ design scene, William joined Deasy/Penner as a partner, opening up his own office in LA’s legendary Silverlake neighborhood. Today, William brings that same level of design knowledge and sensibility as he represents buyers and sellers of architectural real estate throughout Los Angeles.

Similarly to the properties that LAModernHome and The Value of Architecture represent, William and Brian bring their own integrity, for both design and business, to the process. They both understand that buying a home is often the single-most relevant financial purchase in a person’s life, and they are sensitive to the needs of the buyer or seller, recognizing that this is a delicate time for them. William is inspired by LAModernHome’s alliance with The Value of Architecture, and the thoughtful service that these companies can give to the people of Los Angeles.

The Value of Architecture: So how’d you become interested in architecture?

William Baker: When I moved to LA from Chicago, where I had lived in a downtown Wrigleyville loft with a beautiful, modern design, I realized I always had an urban design focus to my aesthetic naturally. When moving to LA I discovered this new magazine Dwell, and saw that Los Angeles had the most pedigreed architectural property in the world. After that I was hooked, and started attending home tours, seeking out Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, Cliff May and others.

Additionally, I quickly learned that you can’t buy as much property in LA as in Chicago. The great thing about mid-century modern though, is its’ great utilization of space, with seamless transitions between inside and out. For example, my house in Chicago was three times the size of my house in LA, but my house here has three distinct outdoor spaces in the design.
Mid-century modern appeals to me aesthetically but also, when it was first conceived, was designed for the masses—something small and affordable for everyone, given that it utilized the space so well. For my own home, because of its uses of steel, glass and wood, and blurring the division between indoor and outside so much, its’ vibe is of a treehouse.

TVOA: Isn’t that everyone’s dream?

William Baker: It’s definitely my dream. I love my house. It was designed in 1962 by John Pugsley, an architect who designed several significant homes in the Pasadena area. It doesn’t have the notoriety as a Schindler or a Neutra, but he designed other compelling gems in LA, and then in San Diego. It’s a small house but it feels bigger.

TVOA: How does the design of your home affect your lifestyle, your behavior and choices?

William Baker: I’ve been in this house for more than ten years and every time I come home I’m on vacation; for myself it’s a sanctuary. I don’t like a lot of visual noise and my house reflects that. When I get home at the end of the day it’s just me and my chocolate lab, Bodhi.

TVOA: Do you consider yourself a minimalist?

William Baker: I have been described as such. My house is only 1,500 square feet, so I also don’t have a lot of room for furniture. What I do have though, is nice—I like quality furniture, from my experience working in high-end interiors for such a long time. But I recently purchased a great turntable so I’m getting back into vinyl. Really, the only thing I have is my dog, and a few cars—I’m a big fan of German cars.

TVOA: And you just went through your own renovation. How’d that go?

William Baker: It was great. I wanted to make a commitment to this house; I had the opportunity to be highly involved in the project and make some cool changes. I wanted to make the house more open, lighter in feel and modern. When I first moved in I installed cork floors, which were period-correct, and chose grey walls, which were all pretty dark. In reimagining the space, I instead painted the walls a crisp white and brought in a light grey, bleached hardwood for flooring, and I opened up some rooms. We ended up ordering too much wood and I installed the remaining on one of the walls, which I think give that room a fresh energy. I completely renovated the kitchen, purchased new appliances and put in this awesome Gaggenau stovetop. The process took a great deal longer than I expected, but the good news with that was I had a chance to sublet a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice for eight months. It became a rewarding process.

This house represents all that’s great which has happened to me since I’ve lived in LA. It was the first house I viewed when looking for property here; I saw nearly fifty homes after it, but this one kept drawing me back. This is home. This isn’t a house I’m going to flip. Coming from the Midwest, not truly understanding at that point LA’s values, the purchase was a leap of faith, and I’ve been able to share that experience with others. That perspective is consistent with LAModernHome and the Value of Architecture. It’s consistent with the type of value that Brian and I bring.

TVOA: How so?

William Baker: Our value isn’t just in selling houses. Our value is deeper than that; it is helping people understand how to maximize the selling price of their house; how to design and decorate, for example. Brian and I are involved in the staging of properties before they’re on sale. We both have a great eye and not a lot of real estate agents do. For sellers, that comes into play when we advise people on this, because of our design experience, but we’re also homeowners doing renovations ourselves. I just completed my renovation and Brian is almost finished with his. You’d be surprised how many real estate agents in town don’t own their home. Brian and I don’t just sell it. We live it.

Real estate affects people’s lives. It’s important to recognize as a realtor that in the moment when someone engages your service significant change is going on in their life. At times the change is exciting for them—someone’s getting married or having a baby, perhaps they’re making more money. But other times it’s not a celebration; for other clients, it’s an unfortunate death or divorce.  It requires us to be a steady, calm influence for them. Our goal is to not only give them incredible results, but also a great experience.

We recently were honored to represent the sellers of the 1925 Rudolph Schindler How House in Silverlake, one of the most significant properties in all of LA and produced a record setting sold result of $2,500,000.

We’ve begun seeing mainstream real estate firms now opening their “architectural divisions”. But LAModernHome and The Value of Architectural were created to function as dedicated specialists in the sale of unique, historic and architectural properties.

As Architectural Realtors, our fundamental goal is to raise awareness of the value of good design, and to assist our clients in maximizing the benefits of a design-oriented lifestyle.

By: David Plick

001front“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”

—Frank Lloyd Wright

Los Angeles is the kind of place that people love to hate. There are the obvious attacks which have become boring—the pretension and exclusivity of the film industry, the traffic, and the superficiality of the people; while on the other side, for the people that love it, the obvious go-to defense is the amazing weather. But for those that live, work, and create in LA, there’s something untouchable, indescribable in the atmosphere. Is it the fact that this is a new and international city that lacks Rome and Athens’ ruins (or even the pre-war buildings of New York)? Or does contemporary Los Angeles architecture come from the west-coast mentality of progressive thinking? Is it the cultural diversity or the film industry that people love to complain about? These are all factors, but there’s still that other thing that people can’t put in words—the feeling, that artistic symbiosis that is created when you put all these crazy and talented people together in one place.

That’s the feeling that Sean Briski, the CalArts trained painter and architect, is describing when he talks about Los Angeles. He took some time to speak to TVOA about his artistic approach and philosophy in the creation of his project at 2358 Silver Ridge Avenue, which hit the market this week.

The Value of Architecture: With exposed steel on the exterior, Silver Ridge feels industrial and futuristic on the outside, yet is also very comfortable and inviting all around. Do you have any architectural influences in terms of futurism / deconstructionism?

Sean Briski: I work part time for Eric Owen Moss, and he is a major influence in my work. Eric has been “disruptive” long before the term became popular.

I don’t often think about the future or the past. I try to recognize the contemporary. For this reason I like Los Angeles a lot. The city is a strong influence because there are so many different points of view that it starts to be unknowable. This makes LA amazing.

The Value of Architecture: What do you mean that Los Angeles is unknowable?

Sean Briski: LA is so geographically large it’s not possible to visit all the neighborhoods. It’s also culturally diverse. It’s hard to get the opportunity to get to know most of the cultures in any kind of significant way. So it is literally & culturally very hard to get a complete picture. The unknown is always present.

The size & space allows it to remain unknown. The lack of history gives more freedom. This is very true for architects.

I don’t know of many similarities between LA & New York.

The Value of Architecture: Something striking both visually and environmentally is your use of found materials to construct the house. How did you select the materials to use, and how much did the materials influence your design decisions?

Sean Briski: The shredded tire is a riff on early greenhouses which were made out of tires. Tires are a waste disposal problem. So, by showing that they can be beautiful in the right context, trash is made beautiful. The window next to the stairs is a display window, and the tires are the display object.

The Value of Architecture: In terms of the design process, did you have drawings for a house like this before you saw the site? Or, did the slope in which the house stands force this design upon you?

Sean Briski: I’m not sure how the site could not be a big influence? The house has four floors because that is what was needed in order to connect the backyard to the street. I would have preferred a smaller house but then there would not be the connection to the backyard. And of course, the view is terrific.

The Value of Architecture: Is Silver Lake still a progressive neighborhood architecturally in LA?

Sean Briski: Silver Lake has gotten very expensive. As things get more expensive there tends to be less experimentation, but Silver Lake is still a great place to live.

The Value of Architecture: You’re a trained painter. How does painting inform your architecture, and vice-versa?

Sean Briski: I was an artist who made paintings. I like art that is very grounded in conceptual ideas. I like art or architecture that that make the common seem unfamiliar.

The Value of Architecture: What is architectural modernism to you? And how does contemporary Los Angeles architecture factor into it?

Sean Briski: Architectural modernism is a historical style that spanned from 1920 to 1960. I’m more interested in contemporary architecture.

There should be many futures & access to be able to choose your future. Currently, choice is a real luxury. In the future I hope this is not the case. Architecture should allow people to do things that are currently not a choice. This is why I put basketball hoops in the living room. It’s about more choices. There are 3 hoops because it’s more choice.

By: David Plick

Graves_Art_Gallery,_SheffieldSo this blog post is essentially a review of an article The New York Times ran this week entitled, “Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” (more on that title in a minute), and the fact that only the Times would look at the City of Los Angeles with precious, paternalistic, unknowingly dismissive eyes saying, “Aw, how cute . . . Look at them trying to go to college.”

The title is hilarious. First off, what exactly is a city’s “art scene”? Is it measured in the amount of money spent in galleries by big time investors? The amount of museums with ancient Roman nude statues and Egyptian Sphinxes (which only serve to bore tourists)? Or is it measured by the number of artists currently producing work? Let’s say in fifty years it’s revealed that the most important visual artists of this generation were actually working the whole time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Is that not right now the most important “art scene” in the country, and we just don’t know it yet?

If The New York Times is going to treat the second most populated city in the United States, which is internationally known and lauded as a center for fashion, film, and progressive thinking as an adorable place “com[ing] into its own” (like the nerdy kid you root for in a teen comedy), then they definitely are going to ignore Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans (two cities that are well-known living destinations for young artists) and the rest.

The article also repeatedly mentions that the art scene is developing in Los Angeles due to oil money, which probably doesn’t sound invigorating to the average NY Times reader. It says that “the Hammer . . . one of several cultural institutions in Los Angeles, along with the Getty Center and Getty Villa . . . were founded on the eclectic private collections of billionaires who made their fortunes in the oil business.” I could just see those high-brow east coasters rolling their eyes at that one. In the meantime, let’s just forget that NYC’s art scene lives off the money of hedge fund billionaires, real estate tycoons, and if you look back far enough: slavery. Is anyone going to sit here and say that great wealth in New York is achieved in the most noble of ways?

“Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” also interviews a couple of artists who recently relocated from New York to LA and hate it. They try to stay optimistic, but are wishy-washy about it—much like any New Yorker is when they move to LA, much like every LA person is when they move to New York. One of them, Jordan Wolfson, is clearly going to go back to New York one day, and the other, Michael Williams, felt “extreme doubt” upon arrival, and also said that the artists in LA aren’t “trying to make something happen here” (which is such a New Yorker thing to think—that everyone else in every other place is lazy). I can’t help but think that this is a biased sample that the journalist chose for the article.

This is all to say: is this article necessary at all? Is it nothing else but more of the same NYC vs. LA, which one is better? Tupac or Biggie? Car or subway? Film or theatre? East coast vs. east coast mentality? Pacific or Atlantic? And then during election times when we feel that sense of camaraderie because, well, we’re all liberals anyway. The bottom line is: some people prefer LA. Some people prefer NYC. You can keep arguing until the end of time, and it won’t matter.

But more importantly, a city’s art scene is too complex to break down in one article. It’s something that just exists within the people. It exists in Korea Town, in Echo Park, in the cafes with local art on the walls, that host poetry readings that only the boyfriends and girlfriends of the poets go to, in the music scene, the stand-up comedy and improve scene, even the drug scene. It exists in artists selling their work on the street, on the walls that are graffiti’d, in the open space where people can share ideas. This, to me, is a city’s “art scene”, and this certainly isn’t validated when The New York Times says so. It just is what it is. And if that means that it’s different than New York, that it doesn’t have boring Roman nude sculptures, or a Van Gogh that tourists take selfies in front of and never think about again, then so be it.

By: David Plick