Of Aspect and Solitude – Ridge Residence by Hsu McCullough
Ridge Residence by Hsu McCullough is a pavilion-style home located on a hillside in Los Angeles’s Sherman Oaks neighbourhood. Designed by owners and architects Peggy Hsu and Chris McCullough, the home – which frames views to the east of a protected park as well as of the San Fernando Valley floor – simultaneously embraces its topography and provides a feeling of solitude to those within its walls.
Peggy and Chris were drawn to the site for its hillside setting, connectivity to nature and sense of privacy. As Peggy says, “the area is less densely populated on the hillside and most properties have deep backyards. Ours frames an uninterrupted view of Fossil Ridge Park – it can never be developed and there are no homes, just a natural landscape featuring hillside oak trees and unique wildlife.” Chris adds that “the wild animals are not shy for a visit,” noting the hummingbirds, dragonflies and coyotes that play in the small catch basin at the house’s edge.
At the back, Ridge Residence expresses an overt connection with the landscape, yet the front elegantly addresses the need for privacy and natural light with a large timber batten brise soleil running the length of the structure to screen the street-facing rooms from passers-by. Constructed from western red cedar, the screen’s height mimics that of neighbouring homes, settling Ridge Residence into its surrounds. The garage, which is clad in reclaimed rough sawn timber, sits to the left of the property, anchoring the home and providing visual reprieve from the vertical timber battens above.
Driven by the layered materiality – which Chris refers to as “brawny” – there is a distinct and purposeful connection between the interior and exterior. Notably, the smooth charcoal-coloured stucco and reclaimed timber cladding continue within, guiding the arrival sequence and creating welcomed continuity. “We certainly wanted several exterior materials to cross thresholds to the interior,” Chris shares. This sentiment is also reflected in the irregular-shaped flagstones that stretch out underfoot internally and externally. Overall, the darker palette creates, as Peggy says, a “cave-like cocoon space that is comfortable inside but also allows natural light to bounce into the space.”
Personality and character are thoughtfully imbued in the expression of this home. Notably, in the primary living space, Chris’ love of music can be seen through his extensive record collection which spans an entire wall. As he says, “I’m a collector and I have a very large record collection.” He adds, “in our previous house, it was in a room by itself but with this one we wanted to have it in the primary living space so it’s not just a collection we can listen to, it’s a texture as well.” His record player sits within custom stone joinery and a large-scale artwork constructed from MiniDiscs hangs on the opposite wall.
The kitchen sits towards the back of the home beneath a generous picture window that captures western sun and provides sightlines to the street. Given its proximity to the living room, its aesthetic relationship to the rest of the home was an important consideration. As Chris says, “the kitchen becomes almost like a stage from the living room, so we wanted to ensure it felt like it belonged in the overall context of the room.” As such, Peggy and Chris looked to Fisher & Paykel for appliances, tapping into the company’s integration capabilities and refined aesthetic to match their vision.
Not only are the Column Refrigerator and Freezer integrated seamlessly into the cabinetry, but the black glass induction cooktop is the perfect complement to the charcoal timber joinery, and most notably, the Downdraft Range Hood allows for considerable design flexibility. “Fisher & Paykel helped us specify this retractable exhaust which sits behind the induction cooktop so when it’s not in use, it disappears into the counter space,” Peggy shares.
Given Peggy and Chris’ shared love of well-made and highly engineered products, the pair’s decision to work with Fisher & Paykel is unsurprising. Importantly, however, Peggy’s enthusiasm extends beyond aesthetics and functionality; her affinity for the kitchen is informed by her childhood in Taiwan and fond memories surrounding food. “From the age of 10, I helped my mum and grandmother in the kitchen – chopping vegetables, preparing all the cooking materials together and watching them making all this amazing Chinese food.” This inherent love of cooking and food preparation is still evident, and it greatly informed Peggy’s preference for “great tools that enhance the cooking experience” in her own home.
The unusual and textural mix of materials seen in the primary living area continues throughout Ridge Residence and “tropical interior plants” blur the boundaries between inside and out. Upstairs, the master bedroom and a den are generous in size, and a roof garden is planted out with native landscaping, blending the form with the hillside. This was an intentional pursuit for the architects; as Chris notes, “because the home emerges from the ridge, there was a conscious effort to select darker earth tones for the exterior materials.” He adds, “all existing trees were left in place and the home’s features were designed with them in mind, and there are planted garden roofs at the front and back of the property.”
Ridge Residence’s raw tactility results in a meaningful and rational relationship to its surrounds. As the timber silvers from the sun and the roof gardens grow, there is the sense that this home will be enveloped by its environment, melding into – as opposed to extruding from – the hillside upon which is sits.