Feature: Ray Shapiro Design - Kuehl House

All images courtesy of  www.ray-shapiro.com  | Carlos R. Hernandez photographer

All images courtesy of www.ray-shapiro.com | Carlos R. Hernandez photographer

The icing on the cake while getting the opportunity to attend an entire weekend-filled "Dwell on Design" in Los Angeles, CA, was taking a tour of a true work of art in the Hollywood Hills. Everyone is entitled to his/her own definition of a "dream home," and while I feel like I live in a portion of the country where the mentality is "more square footage," my thoughts couldn't be more opposite of that statement. My passions and preferences include functional square footage, design with a purpose, maximizing daylight and blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living space.

One example is this 1960s home that was originally built with 1870sq ft and perched on the side of a very large hill, overlooking Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Fast-forward 52 years to May of 2012, where this home sat on the market. In need of major structural re-engineering, the home was purchased for a price of only $405,000 in an area where most homes sit close to $2.0M+! 

At this time, the homeowner hired Ray Shapiro Design to completely re-think the space, and to turn it into a functional home that served as a relaxing oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life. First things first though; the foundation was the first major hurdle in this extensive remodel. In a very challenging location such as this one as it rests on a steep hillside, granting access to the proper machinery needed to fix the foundation, quickly became a logistical nightmare.

Mod Abode: "You said the foundation of the home was in really bad shape at the beginning. Explain how bad it was. Or, what was visibly noticeable to make it apparent that there were foundation issues."

Ray Shapiro: "There were multiple major cracks in the existing foundation footings due to creep and differential settlement according to the geotechnical/soils exploration report that was commissioned by my client. The cracks were visible from underneath the lowest level of the house."

Most homes in need of this much foundation repair would have been torn down, which is the only way machinery could have gained the proper access to the job site. THIS is where the story gets incredible--after speaking personally with Ray Shapiro during the home tour, I was blown away at the information he disclosed to me about how they had to go about repairing the foundation.

Mod Abode: "Stabilizing the foundation was the key thing at the beginning of your project. However, since you were not able to get machinery to the job site, how were you able to re-stabilize the foundation?

Ray Shapiro: "The recommendation of the geotechnical/soils engineer was to underpin the existing footings utilizing a combination of grade beams and caissons based on the proposed design. The house was engineered utilizing (10) concrete caissons that were 30" in diameter each.  The caissons averaged around 9'-0" to bedrock and went an additional 8'-0" into bedrock per the geotechnical/soils exploration report recommendations. Since the house was a remodel and the existing floor framing remained in place at each level, it wasn't possible to utilize a standard or limited access drill rig to drill the caisson holes. Instead the holes were manually dug over the course of close to 3 months!"

At this time in our conversation, I had to politely ask Ray to repeat himself as it pertains to the manual labor--yes, you read that correctly...a team of men, over the course of almost 3 months, dug 10 holes by hand that were each 30 inches in diameter, and 17 feet deep!! Whew! With a secured foundation, the team was able to continue with Ray's redesign plans.

The thing I love most about what Ray had to say, was that he had to use "borrowed light" in order to make this, now 2250sq ft home (adding 380sq ft in his redesign), feel open and airy. The southern side of the home had an abundance of daylight due to the direction it faced towards the Hollywood overlook, but the opposite side of the home had dark rooms and hallways. By adding slot glass reveals in the hallways and stairwell, and clerestory windows, Ray was able to achieve a more balanced feel inside with the available natural light. The Kuehl House truly is a work of art with one incredible view from any of the three balconies. And by "Midwestern standards" this small, modest 2250sq ft home is now a spacious and smart abode, mainly due to the amount of daylight and three levels that all open-up to the outdoors. I'm not sure every architect would have been up for the challenge, but Ray Shapiro did a beautiful job. 

Mod Abode: "Do you have any idea of what the change in home value is based on original purchase price, to NOW?"

Ray Shapiro: "The house was purchased in May 2012 for $405,000. If it was sold today in the condition it was purchased, Redfin estimates the value at $955,822. According to a real estate agent that I know, who is very familiar with the Hollywood Hills market, the approximate value of the house now with the implemented remodel based on my design is roughly $1,950,000."

A special thank you to Ray Shapiro for making himself available for this interview. To see more of his work, visit www.ray-shapiro.com.

All images courtesy of www.ray-shapiro.com | Carlos R. Hernandez photographer