Design Concepts

A look back on designing 5786 Valley Oak

The Margolis House showed how Ain’s philosophy and his basic palette of techniques could produce a unique building under unique circumstances. 1950’s modern homes were bought by progressive buyers who understood the intent to integrate the environment into the daily living and not shut it out. It was a building style only accepted by a few buyers, which explains why it was mostly the wealthy who fostered this building style by hiring progressive architects.

5786 Valley Oak is a typical Ain building in the sense that Ain began with certain assumptions. The structure would be 4×4 wood posts set at a regular interval, with integral glazing and a stucco skin. Simple volumes would be kept by clerestory windows and a flat roof. The forms would extend into the landscape to define outdoor space. The house would be functionally zoned with the entry in the center for efficient circulation, but the unusual site conditions, sloping up 32 feet from the curb to the rear, prompted a novel organization.

Ain therefore approached it from below, with the lower level housing a two-car garage, a playroom (nowadays a gym), and the entrance, which leads immediately to a staircase up. The staircase is the hinge in a fractured T-shape, connecting the laterally organized piece above the garage and another piece that moved from front to back.

The kitchen wraps around the staircase, occupying the center of the house. Above the garage is the master suite and bathroom, which was formerly the children’s realm and originally had three bedrooms lined up with Bauhaus efficiency.

The living room, and in fact all rooms, open onto a broad terrace, while the library with full bath is isolated to the left. A whimsical “Ain” sliding glass door separates the kitchen from the living room.

By setting the house back instead of curb front, he created a more park-like atmosphere creating stillness when driving up to the front door.

Ester McCoy, author of much influential architectural literature, said about Ain in an LA Times interview: “For the first time I saw how an Ain house shaped lives.”