Location: Sunland, Los Angeles
Year built: 2009
Architects: Sandy Watts, Tammy Ho, Simon Storey, with Sterling Ruby
Specs: 3 beds, 2 baths, 2,331 square feet, 0.58 acres
Sandwiched between the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains, Sunland is one of the lowest-density neighborhoods in Los Angeles, thanks in part to its agricultural origins (it was once a region of olive orchards and grape vineyards). Though lately the neighborhood has seen an influx of house hunters nosing around in hopes of finding more space for less money, there are some well-known longtime residents, including the California poet laureate and former congressman John Steven McGroarty, and, more recently, contemporary mixed-media artist Sterling Ruby, whose live-work compound is now on the market.
Located at 8248 McGroarty Street, one mile west of the McGroarty Arts Center, the gated retreat was designed in 2009 by Ruby in collaboration with three architects from SCI-Arc: Sandy Watts, Tammy Ho, and Simon Storey. Several trees are built into the structure of the house, which takes cues from traditional Scandinavian and Japanese design, as well as from the minimalist aesthetic of abstract sculptor Tony Smith.
In contrast with the cooler charred-wood exterior, the interior is mostly done in warm pine paneling for a cabinlike feel. High ceilings and multiple large skylights help brighten up the space. Concrete floors were a utilitarian choice, according to listing agent Carol Stewart. And the simple concrete-block fireplace in the living room is a nod to Sol Lewitt’s concrete-block structures.
There are also a whole lot of built-in shelves and cabinets. “Sterling has mentioned that a good cabinetmaker, someone who understands space, is sometimes the most valuable thing when making a place to live,” says Stewart.
Various decks across the house make indoor-outdoor living easy: There’s one off the master bath with a Japanese-style soaking tub, one with built-in seating, and an elevated platform overlooking the hills. Per the listing, there are existing plans for a pool. The 0.58-acre property is dense with oak trees and also includes a studio workshop with a loft and a garage with a kiln room. Take a video tour here.