Studio William Hefner: Brentwood Hills, California Home

California homes have defined the art of bringing the outside in, with huge windows, accessible patios and defined landscaping. But architect WILLIAM HEFNER added to that mixture when he designed a Brentwood Hills home that also combined communal and intimate spaces.

“It was important that it be a warm, family house,” Hefner comments. “But also, a place that could host up to 50 people for dinner.” Extended family and friends often gather here for the holidays and special occasions.

Hefner, who is principal at Studio William Hefner in Los Angeles, looked to nature and found his solution to these divergent requests. The downhill-sloping lot allowed for multiple tiers, and a backyard outdoor living area that could double as an entertainment area. The fact the family wanted to keep the four heritage sycamores on the property also defined the design solution.

“We worked the plan around the trees and, as much as possible, to blend in with the landscaping through tiers. We didn’t just want a big box out there,” notes Hefner.

The entrance from the front is modulated. The ground-level setback, as well as lush landscaping, belies the fact that a much larger house is on the property. The use of wood, glass and a cement dyed its own unique blush color blend together to create a welcoming, but private, streetscape.

Beyond the gate, a lush courtyard subtly welcomes people into the home’s large, bright entryway, with soaring 14-foot ceilings and a floating stairwell with glass sides. By opening up areas, altering ceiling heights and using natural materials, the interior became a multi-level, functioning home.

“It was really important to get the scale right,” Hefner says.

Whether it’s in the dining/kitchen area that opens to the backyard entertainment space with collapsible glass doors, or the intimate dining area where the family has meals, attention to detail is evident.

Walnut, used for the floors, shelves and cabinets, creates a natural warmth throughout. Wood accents are also found in beautiful and sometimes quirky places, ranging from the stair treads to the shelving on a headboard and in the bath areas. A wood ceiling is not only the perfect complement to the oxidized stainless-steel fireplace in the downstairs sitting area, but it also significantly improved the room’s acoustics.

Lighting plays a key component as well. It is whimsical (the large entryway chandelier is made of perforated ostrich eggs), functional (suspended lights define the family dining area) and classical (custom rice paper wall lamps in the sitting room).

But flexibility is essential when designing a home. “I try not to be too specific about use,” admits Hefner. “After time, people tend to use a room differently from how you designed it.” Since the home was built in 2008, he’s seen the downstairs theater turned into a music room, as well as other household evolutions depending upon family needs through the years.

Photography by Laura Hull and Benny Chan.

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