Finne CraftsmanshipAuthor:Abigail Stone
Seattle-based architect Nils Finne brings his mastery of craft and landscape to a Venice home
An architect’s work is their silent calling call. Certainly that proved true in the case of this home in Venice by architect Nils Finne. The clients had been searching for someone who could design the house they envisioned: “It had to be pretty and it had to work as a family home,” they share. “Cooking is our passion; our social life and how we operate as a family center around the kitchen. We knew we would have a pool and we’d be serving inside and outside.” And the house had to be practical: “We have two boys and a 100-pound dog.”
They’d almost given up on their search when Finne’s name came across their radar. ”One of my partners was going to use Nils for a renovation. He said ‘You should check out the work of this architect.’ When I looked at the photos [of a Lake Forest Park, Washington project Finne had done], they were warm, but not in a colonial way…I looked and said, ‘We’re done.’”
Though the Harvard-trained Finne, who was brought up between the US and Norway, lives and mostly works in Seattle, he was not completely unfamiliar with Los Angeles. As a Senior Associate at Richard Meier and Partners, he’d worked on Getty Center and, for several years after launching his own firm, an office in Santa Monica had kept him tethered to the city. He understood its indoor-outdoor ethos, its subtle, stubborn seasons and its varied, contained neighborhoods, each with their own, unique rhythm.
Finne shifted the house to one side of the long, narrow lot in Venice allowing for a pool which mirrors the home’s living room. “The bedroom wing of the house frames the triangular living pavilion, which projects into the long garden space on the west side of the property,” explains Finne. “The living area is enclosed by a continuous glass wall, protected by a 6-ft roof overhang.” White plaster walls and bleached rift-sawn white oak cabinets and floors serve as a backdrop for the client’s art collection. A delicate steel light fixture is poised over a sculptural quartz kitchen island and cast-glass breakfast counter.
Efficient natural ventilation, Low-E insulated glazed windows with concealed shades, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, locally sourced materials and drought-tolerant landscaping add up to a home that is both beautiful and sustainable. An overhanging roof, which has been designed to incorporate future photo voltaic panels and hot-water solar panels, helps the home stay cool when the weather heats up while allowing winter’s lower hanging sun to penetrate into the interior and passively warm the floor. Low VOC paints and stains have been used throughout the house.
The result is a bright and elegant house that is rooted in the Southern California climate and sense of place. Warm materials, including Douglas Fir beams and KOLUMBA, an organic Danish brick designed by Peter Zumthor, imbue it with a deep sense of modern craft, forging a calm oasis in the midst of its eclectic Venice neighborhood.