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Let There Be Light: Habitat 6 in Los Angeles, Townhouses Designed for Brighter City Living

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Let There Be Light: Habitat 6 in Los Angeles, Townhouses Designed for Brighter City Living

August 10, 2018

Recently, when my mother came to visit New York on a whirlwind business trip, her hotel offered her their “superior business room” for the night. The room was spacious, she was told, and—even better—had a big window with views of the city. When she checked in, she discovered, “spacious” really translates to “room to edge around the bed on your way to the bathroom,” and “views of the city” really means “a view into a shaftway and a brick wall.”

Living in a city often means compromising on natural light, and usually means giving up access to private outdoor space. So when Los Angeles–based Integrated Development set out to build a new complex of six townhouses under LA’s Small Lot Ordinance (an antidote to “suburban style single-family subdivisions,” allowing for small-footprint developments with open space), they wanted to revolutionize city living and maximize the things that city dwellers usually have to give up: outdoor space, private entrances, and lots of natural light. Their quality-of-living strategy? Raise the living areas to the second floor to capture maximum sunlight, use windows strategically, and ensure every unit has access to green space—all within a small footprint. Take a look at the results.

Photography by Lauren Moore, courtesy of Integrated Development.

the six units from the outside, laid out for optimal sunlight and outdoor acces 9
Above: The six units from the outside, laid out for optimal sunlight and outdoor access.

In designing the units, the chief goal was not space but light: “Natural light is one of the most important elements to consider in design: It makes us feel good and connects us to the outside,” the developers say. “We understood that gross square footage is not as important as finding the correct equilibrium between exterior and interior space, the position of the structure in its environment, and its relationship with natural light throughout the day.” In other words: quality over quantity.

So they started by scrapping the idea of the traditional side-by-side row house. “This type of organization would have resulted in the majority of the residences being situated between the other residences, eliminating the potential for natural light along the long sides of the home,” they explain. Instead, they opted for three “bars” (or rows) of homes, set in a U-shape. As a result each unit has access to light and airflow on three sides and access to a private terrace.

each unit has a private entrance. cedar cladding adds to an organic, rather tha 10
Above: Each unit has a private entrance. Cedar cladding adds to an organic, rather than urban, feel.
as with many city dwellings, working on a postage stamp sized lot meant buildin 11
Above: As with many city dwellings, working on a postage stamp-sized lot meant building up, not out. But the architects chose to put a “flex space” and garage on the ground floor and the living areas on the second, orienting the levels to get the maximum amount of sunlight in the common areas and bedrooms.

The open-plan living areas feel spacious thanks to wide-plank European white oak floors and walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Super White. Shown here: one of the unit layouts.

the bright kitchens are designed with quality materials and longevity in mind,  12
Above: The bright kitchens are designed with quality materials and longevity in mind, including Carrara counters and backsplashes and custom white lacquer cabinets. An integrated LED task light is concealed beneath the upper cabinets.

Alongside the kitchen, a cedar “cube” (an echo of the cladding on the unit’s exterior) conceals a walk-in pantry and a washroom. The cooktop is the Bosch 800 Series. Out of frame, an Allia Fireclay Single-Bowl Undermount Sink by Rohl is paired with a Delta Trinsic Stainless Steel faucet.

on the opposite wall, stacked electric convection ovens, both by bosch, and a k 13
Above: On the opposite wall, stacked electric convection ovens, both by Bosch, and a KitchenAid fridge are built into a freestanding white lacquer cabinet. The white pendant lights are the White Concrete Material Pendants by New Works.
white oak built ins below the stairway add storage in the living area and stand 14
Above: White oak built-ins below the stairway add storage in the living area and stand in for a guardrail. The developers wanted to keep the stairs open, and opted for three-quarter-inch steel stringers with concealed supports on either end.
one of the living rooms. the units can be purchased unfurnished or custom fitte 15
Above: One of the living rooms. The units can be purchased unfurnished or custom-fitted by Integrated Development. Here, the couch is by B&B Italia and the chairs were sourced from DeKor in LA.

The team ran into another paradox of city life: How to maximize light without living in a fishbowl? The solution came in the form of smart window placement. While the team installed windows on every open wall they could, they did it carefully: “We considered how we could maximize openings and natural light in each home, while ensuring view orientations would not look directly into another home or an unsightly surrounding condition, such as a neighbor’s wall,” they say. They installed three types of windows: clerestory windows along the tops of walls, which let in light but make it difficult for neighbors to see in; “punched” windows with high windowsills; and floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

Note also the inset floor vent, made out of the same white oak as the flooring: It allows air to be carried throughout the space without having to install HVAC ducting in the ceilings (therefore compromising ceiling height).

every unit has direct access to outdoor space. 16
Above: Every unit has direct access to outdoor space.
habitat 6 design los angeles corner window
Above: A light-flooded corner.
another patio, with poured in place concrete walls for privacy and a concrete f 18
Above: Another patio, with poured-in-place concrete walls for privacy and a concrete fire pit.
in places like hallways and the tops of stairs, where privacy is less of a conc 19
Above: In places like hallways and the tops of stairs, where privacy is less of a concern, full-height glass panels bring in extra sun.
on the third floor, a bedroom is fitted with a full wall of storage space. 20
Above: On the third floor, a bedroom is fitted with a full wall of storage space.
a clerestory window is key for the bedroom. 21
Above: A clerestory window is key for the bedroom.
one model of bath, with one wall clad in azulej tiles by patricia urquiola for  22
Above: One model of bath, with one wall clad in Azulej Tiles by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina. Even the toilets are luxe: Units are fitted with Toto Drake II commodes.
a detail of the urquiola tiles, with a wall mounted hansgrohe faucet. 23
Above: A detail of the Urquiola tiles, with a wall-mounted Hansgrohe faucet.
a variation on the theme, with azulej tiles on the floor. for continuity&#8 24
Above: A variation on the theme, with Azulej tiles on the floor. For continuity’s sake, the bathroom vanities are white oak, like the floors and the living room built-ins, with CesarStone counters.

N.B.: Interested? The units are mostly sold, though Integrated Development tells us there’s one available. See Habitat 6 for more info.

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