Family AffairAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Brett Appel of Appel Architects designs a modern marvel for his father in Playa del Ray
“Drawing on the rich architectural history of our markets, we incorporate contemporary design trends into local design vernacular,” says co-founder of Appel Architecture, Brett Appel.”Our mission is to add personal and intrinsic value for our clients while enhancing the interaction between interior and exterior, and how a building integrates with its surrounding context.”
He and his team applied their approach when designing a 4,400-square-foot, new construction beach house for his parents Mark and Eloise Appel. Mark, now a retired architect who ran his own design-build firm and Dr. Eloise Appel, who recently retired but formerly founded and ran an education consulting firm specializing in educational evaluation, were eager to build their dream home on a beachfront lot that had remained in the family for over 50 years. Completed in 1974, Mark’s father commissioned him to design and build a new house for the family that caught the eye of a local developer who knocked on the door and asked who the architect was. “This led to a 20 year partnership designing and building custom single family homes all over LA,” says Brett. “Later, the wear and tear of ocean weather, termite damage, and even a small electrical fire eventually made the home uninhabitable and it sadly had to be torn down.”
“My parents had two very specific requests: to hear water flowing from anywhere in the home, and to see the beach from the primary bath,” says Brett. The team achieved this by designing the house around a three-story atrium with a custom built waterfall along the main stair, that is audible from anywhere. “Having beach views from the primary bath was more of a challenge because the site is very long and narrow, and the primary beach-facing facade was obviously dedicated to the main living spaces,” says Brett. “With some clever massing adjustments, the team was able to cut the building back at the third floor to create a corner window that looks over the adjacent property onto Playa del Rey beach.”
The ground floor was designed for seamless indoor-outdoor living and entertaining with expansive glass doors that open completely up, providing unobstructed beach views. While an open plan on the second floor allows for the Appels to enjoy views of the ocean from the kitchen and main living room. In an effort to retain elements of his family’s original home, Brett salvaged the existing travertine fireplace and stained glass windows and repurposed the bar top into a custom coffee table for the main living area.
Avid collectors of rare gems and minerals, Brett and his team focused on seamlessly integrating the collection into the architecture. “There was a lot of thought put into display areas, lighting, etc,” says Brett. “The idea was not to make a precious museum box that people happen to live in, but to make the pieces a part of the space, and show how seamlessly art and nature can integrate into the house and into the owner’s lifestyles.”
Being Brett’s father served as the builder on the project, there wasn’t a need for a big reveal at the end, however, “the expansive views of the ocean and sunset have greatly influenced their lifestyle as Happy Hour has become a nightly tradition complete with an enormous hors d’oeuvres spread,” Brett notes.