Sunset PerchAuthor:Jessica Ritz
Architect Paul McClean maximizes city views with a commanding architectural statement at a Hollywood Hills multigenerational family home
Given the single-family residential projects in his portfolio that nearly defy the laws of engineering, Paul McClean has long been accustomed to tackling formidable challenges. “Although there are constraints, they can actually help you come up with a better design,” he says about navigating the labyrinthine hillside zoning regulations in L.A. After all, the Ireland-born and trained founder of McClean Design didn’t create The One in Bel Air and other commissions for his boldfaced name clientele by shying away from difficult sites or being hemmed in by convention. “I always think: What can we do with this, and how can we turn this to everyone’s advantage?” he says.
A sprawling contemporary hilltop estate in Hollywood proves again how new complexities yield astonishing results. The staggered profile of this multigenerational compound created for a Canada- based family is “a reflection of the height envelope,” McClean explains. He knows how to master a commanding vista, and this promontory location, with its 270-degree perspective, tapped into that expertise. “The view is really special because it’s up in the hills, but very immediate to the Sunset Strip,” he notes.
In addition to the client brief and programming needs, these bespoke efforts always begin with the land and its context. “I had this idea of this really interesting living space surrounded by water on three sides, and that was my jumping-off point,” McClean says. This home is the fourth McClean has designed for this particular client, so he began with a strong foundation of trust, too. The family members “all want to come to L.A. as often as they can, and [it was] also important that we had a lot of good outdoor entertaining spaces,” he says.
The approximately acre-size lot that boasts its own Hollywood lore—including erstwhile resident Ronald Reagan during his acting career—has a nearly 20-foot drop, which therefore “drove the layout of the house.” The resulting pronounced approach toward the house that McClean describes as a “ceremonial stair” navigates the slope. Vertical strips of Verde Guatemala marble extend the height of the primary elevation to compose a screen that provides privacy—plus beautifully patterned light and shadow play. The garage at the lower level anchors the structure, with the living room and extensive pool and lounge areas perched above for ideal city gazing.
The singular experience of walking into the interior spaces complements rather than competes with the outward scenery. A double-height glass wall in the back facade of the house frames the tropical-inspired landscape design by Garden of Eva. Here, a cascading water wall made of Verde Guatemala marble creates a distinctive “focal point” and accentuates the lushness. Statement pieces like an original sculpture by artist Steve Turnbull, sculptural dramatic black seating by Rick Owens and tables by Vincenzo De Cotiis contrast with earthy surfaces and textured indoor stone planters sourced from Berbere Imports and Plant Daddies.
“Our goal was to bring the scale down and feel comfortable and organic,” says interior designer Sarah McKay of ColabHouse. “We did that by introducing all warm and natural materials and materials in their live state.” Elements such as travertine exterior cladding, bronze window systems, black metal trim, triple-bleached black walnut and green-toned marble form McKay’s palette. McClean observes how “she was very rigorous” with material selection and application. The project team traveled to Italy to select travertine slabs that were then installed in smaller exterior geometric blocks as another gesture to mitigate the scale. With some stone specimens, “we cut off the end of the block so it has that natural, chiseled look,” she states, pointing to the Verde Guatemala door handle that’s “hand-chiseled to give it this rough, organic look.”
The walnut woods within the open staircase and a large adjacent window make the volumes feel more intimate while establishing a connection with the outdoors. A vintage Persian rug from Woven and an original painting by Kevin Beasley add layering and depth to the custom matte finish plaster surfaces by Rex Pratt and City Wall in the stairwell. The strong indoor-outdoor ethos continues with fully retractable floor-to-ceiling windows that facilitate a seamless flow between the pool areas and living and dining rooms, as well as the expansive family kitchen, which also offers a view into the rear garden. Deep eaves provide ample protection from the sun throughout. McKay and ColabHouse designed custom outdoor lounges and other furnishings nestled into their settings that often appear as if they are floating above the various water elements. Ample seating elsewhere literally straddles interior and exterior spaces, such as roomy day beds that face a firepit.
“The client has an interest in fitness and exploring wellness ideas,” McClean says. The basement level hammam is the ultimate chic holistic health amenity. Italian modernism–inspired narrow arches lead to bathing features, including a cold plunge carved out of a solid silver travertine block and a gym. A wine cellar outfitted with black vintage Monk chairs designed by Afra and Tobia Scarpa for Molteni—a McKay favorite—and a gaming room wrapped in bleached walnut woods allow for more relaxed (and perhaps relatively indulgent) activities.
The striking, ethereal green onyx bar with a patinated brass shelf surrounded by Thomas Hayes barstools is yet another gathering place downstairs. Three bedrooms are situated at the lower level, while a green roof garden atop the living room enhances the retreat-like nature of the primary suite and the two additional bedrooms upstairs. The primary bedroom is awash in neutral tones and includes a large mohair rug from Woven, a ColabHouse-designed custom linen bed frame and Puffball bedside table lamps by Faye Toogood. A side table by MQuan Studio and an Apparatus floor lamp keep company in the corner next to a sumptuously curvy Sacha chaise from Shine by S.H.O.
Overall, this family home is yet another example of how McClean creatively thrives when working within specific parameters in remarkably singular locales—and in partnership with clients and collaborators who dream big. “For me, I think probably the hardest project would be a big empty space in the fields of Nebraska,” he says with a laugh.