Designing a house that blends in with neighboring homes is a common goal for many architects. Michael Kollin, AIA, president of Kollin Altomare Architects in Long Beach, Calif., had a different goal and focused instead on what he and his wife wanted when designing their Long Beach house.
The home’s original structure was built in 1929, as are most other houses in this neighborhood. “A lot of people have renovated their homes with a multitude of different styles. Even though our house doesn’t blend in, there are a number of other houses that don’t blend in,” Kollin says.
Building codes were partly responsible for Kollin’s decision to renovate his house rather than tear it down and rebuild.
“When we started the renovation process we decided to save the front half of the house which included an original kitchen and living room. We also saved some of the existing walls and raised flooring system. If you save 50 percent of the walls, it’s considered a remodel not new construction,” he says, alluding to the cheaper permits for remodeling.
As an architect who practices frequently in Hawaii, tropical design inspired the style of Kollin’s house. “I wanted to bring some of the tropics home with me so I’d feel like I’m on vacation when I come home from work,” Kollin adds.
The roof is of green tiles rather than the more commonly used red or terra cotta in Southern California. This approach was used to add the tropical appearance to the outside of the house. Most of the homes Kollin designs in Hawaii feature a green tile roof.
Bermuda shutters were used on the exterior of the house for their function and appearance. “They were my inspiration for the design. There’s a number of ways to do exterior decorative treatments; these shutters helped to enhance that tropical design,” Kollin says.
In addition to the roof and shutters, colors enhance the tropical theme. Most of Kollin’s Hawaii projects include simple, neutral colors. Teak windows and doors, and green roofing carry that theme. Inside, bamboo engineered wood flooring is moved throughout the house for color. “The wall colors were based on bolder colors rather than neutral earth tones. The accent paints were reflected around some of the tile and stone work that we selected,” he says.
The site of the house is 40 ft. wide by 90 ft. deep creating setback and height limitations. “We required the typical building setbacks and height limitations of 15-ft. yard setbacks, 3-ft. side yard, 10-ft. rear yard, and a 28-ft. height limit,” he says.
Toward the rear of the house is a third-floor sun deck, originally intended to be a large-volume room. Height restrictions, unfortunately, prevented it from being an additional room. As construction began, Kollin’s wife showed him a home that included a sun deck and asked if it was possible to add it to their design. “Fortunately we were early enough in the design of the foundation to allow us to go through and change the plans sufficiently to get a sun deck on the third floor,” he explains. In addition, the sun deck adds resale value with ocean views from three sides.
As with most houses in this area, access to the garage is from a back alley, which creates a small back yard. In response, front patios are more desirable. “[Front patios] are typical in waterfront or beach communities, and are more socially interactive with the neighborhood,” Kollin adds.
Shade and shadow lines were created on the outside of the house to keep it from looking like a shoe box, Kollin adds. “The front of a house should have character, and by recessing some areas and pulling some areas out where you can, instead of coming right to the setbacks helps create shade or shadow. On our house that was done by popping out the front entry tower. On the left side of the house, we recessed the wall that goes to the living room and provided a column with a wood trellis over that particular area,” he says.
In addition, the rooms on the second floor were set back to create large roof overhangs. This provides shadow over a portion of the second floor elevation. “The play of the Bermuda shutters adds a third layer of architectural feature,” Kollin adds.
Working with a small lot required sacrifices from Kollin such as a small living room and dining room. However, the living room was one space that pleasantly surprised Kollin. “Until it was framed and done, we didn’t get the feeling of the volume of space and comfort the space provides,” he says.
Knowing what he knows now, the only aspect Kollin would change is the colors. “I wouldn’t mind taking more time with paint selections,” he says. “I’m happy but would have liked to research more paint colors.