overgrown 11 Author: Sarah Virginia White
When their good friend and real estate agent took Walter and Sara Rozak to a run-down midcentury home in Santa Monica, he offered these words of warning: “This is a weird one.” The Rozaks were planning to start a family and had scoured Los Angeles open houses for a property that would let them tick off the boxes on their wish list, but they had come up short. As promised, the 1950s ranch-style home wasn’t any more ideal than the other houses they had seen, but the site—overlooking a golf course and growing wild with 150-foot trees that choked out any sunlight—offered them the chance to build the urban Hawaiian-inspired retreat they’d been dreaming about.
With open, airy spaces and a soft minimalist aesthetic, the home turned out even better than the Rozaks had envisioned. Since moving in two years ago, they have welcomed their first child, a boy who is now a toddler, and their space feels like the intimate family home they wanted—despite its large size and clean, contemporary design. “When people walk in, they describe exactly what we were hoping to get—a modern space that feels warm and inviting. It’s happened dozens of times,” says Walter. “It can’t be a coincidence.”
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 10
To soften the spaces for the naturally minimalist couple, the designer used textiles and custom rugs with cool pops of color. Sara proved a capable partner in these endeavors, picking out vintage furniture at Silver Lake thrift stores and finalizing thread colors for the living room rugs that Goodwin designed. “There was no indecisiveness,” says Goodwin. “She was basically a dream client, because our styles are so similar.” The designer added a wow factor to the upper living room by commissioning a custom bronze chandelier in the style of one she had spotted at a vintage shop. The secret weapon for achieving the timeless, spare feel of the interiors? “Mixing a little vintage, a little custom, some high-end pieces and some off-the-shelf items,” says Goodwin. “It doesn’t look like everything was done in the same era. It adds a little more depth.” Textural elements, such as this custom upholstered headboard and natural woods in this guest room, add warmth to a minimalist space.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 8
150-year-old trees lend shade and soften the edges of the Rozaks’ new home.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 9
Jacobs handily retained the non-conforming setbacks of the previous home by working with a couple of existing walls, while the agile construction team accommodated midstream design changes. The lower living room, for example, was shaping up as too long and narrow to be comfortable. “We reengineered it,” says Walter. “We extended it into the backyard and added the rolling walls, which meant the pool had to move.” About a third of the way through the build, Sara was able to wrap up a project at work and be on site each day, tweaking approved designs and sourcing finishes to get everything just how the couple wanted it. “Their input was fantastic. Most people don’t have the time or expertise to lend to the production, but they were amazingly involved,” says Jacobs. An extra bedroom stocked with a pair of twin beds lets the Rozaks host sleepovers after large family dinners.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 7
“We obsessed over the stairs,” says Jacobs of his design for the four-and-a-half-foot rise. “From here, you can experience views to both the north and the south.”
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 6
The Rozaks had initially hoped to finish the interiors on their own, but the oversize living rooms and cool material palette (“If you were to pick up a handful of rocks, those were the colors that inspired us,” says Sara) required a practiced hand to warm them up. So with their home nearly finished, they turned to interior designer Pascha Goodwin, Jacobs’ close friend, to help make the lounge areas more inviting. “When I came on, the house was empty, with a ton of open floor space,” says Goodwin. “It had this cavernous feeling.” Goodwin designed custom rugs to brighten the lower living room.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 5
Meanwhile, subtle material changes ease the flow back indoors; the concrete pavers of the patio transition almost seamlessly into the porcelain tiles of the lower living room as you step over the threshold. The dramatic stairway to the upper living room introduces rich walnut wood and stretches over a four-and-a-half-foot rise to a second living space, which features wood floors, exposed beams and an undulating statement wall of white stone. The Rozaks scored the same white stone used at the Getty Center (which is visible from the upper living room) for their own statement wall.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 4
The couple’s directives were simple. “They wanted views, beautifully oriented modern spaces and a covered outdoor porch,” says Jacobs. Those orders drove the architect to design the house in three sections: a bi-level, glassed-in living area; a two-story structure housing bedrooms above the kitchen and dining area; and a rear portion that includes Sara’s office and an exercise room. The window-lined lounge space includes the ground-level living room, where a 30-foot retracting wall opens directly onto the pool patio—epitomizing the indoor-outdoor principle. “The lanai became the organizational idea of the home,” says Jacobs. The kitchen was a collaboration between Homeowner Sara Rozak, who selected its surface materials, and Goodwin, who customized bar stools from Blu Dot and a chandelier from San Francisco’s Propeller.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 3
Windows in the upper living room fold away to allow unobstructed views over nearby fairways.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 2
“We have a big combined family—a simple dinner with the kids can be as many as 30 people,” says homeowner Walter Rozak. To accommodate the crowds, architect Mike Jacobs designed flexible indoor-outdoor living spaces that can comfortably host up to 220 guests. Venice Beach, by Los Angeles designer and photographer Marc Atlan, hangs above a custom dining table by Marmol Radziner.
Photographer: Michael Wells overgrown 1
“We loved the outdoor lifestyle in Kona. Nature gives you a sense of luxury,” says Sara. “That was the one idea we truly stuck with during the entire process—we wanted to have that indoor-outdoor feeling of our vacations.” Their vision sparked, the couple enlisted New York–based architect Mike Jacobs to spearhead the home’s completion. What followed was a two-and-a-half-year endeavor that included clearing out dying trees, demolishing the former house (except a few existing walls and the kitchen, which had a cool 1970s vibe and was moved—piece by piece—into Sara’s parents’ home) and building a 5-bedroom, 9,000-square-foot home almost from the ground up.
Photographer: Michael Wells