Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
How does an architect create a relaxing home environment for a world-famous rock star?
By blending dramatic flair with a zen-like vibe to form a serene, peaceful living space. Elissa Scrafano is in the business of making a house a safe haven. A 20-year veteran in the field, her firm Scrafano Architects strives to blend “built elements” (floors, walls and ceilings) into the natural elements of the ground, horizon and sky. She does this with the hope of evoking a tranquil feeling from the instant a resident turns the key into the lock. “We’re known for taking banal residential spaces and opening them up,” said Scrafano. “When you come home, you should get a feeling that this is a place in which you’re able to relax.”
The physical location of her two offices is what provides the fodder for her design inspiration, from the palm trees that dot Los Angeles’ desert skyscape to the urban dwelling spaces and Midwestern charm that are hallmarks of Chicago. Scrafano sees the homes she designs as backdrops to that scenery. Her designs serve to heighten and incorporate the houses’ environment, whether it’s a vacation property in Hawaii or a 1920s style bungalow loft in Chicago.
This philosophy is evident in a project Scrafano recently helmed: the renovation of Nate Mendel’s (bassist for the Foo Fighters / Sunny Day Real Estate) 1950s ranch style home. “We closely collaborate with our clients to really understand what they want or need out of our designs,” says Scrafano. “Nate is often on tour or traveling. When he comes home, he wants a place where he can have peace and serenity.”
So, she and her team, which included Gus Duffy and contractor Sean King, completely updated the interior of Mendel’s 5,000-square-foot ranch-style home, in addition to building a brand new two-story, 1,000-square-foot studio and guesthouse to the property. Scrafano created a tranquil environment by using natural, custom-wood cabinetry, which offset the polished concrete floors. This also complemented the subtle gray palate she chose to accentuate the natural rock found in the mountains beyond. Custom modern mica chandeliers were used to light the center of the home, and sliding panels of glass were used to open the Mendel residence to the expansive Los Angeles Valley below, with the mountains just in the distance.
Together, these elements all helped Scrafano to capture the pacific Northwestern-meets-California coast look Mendel was after. “This is what Elissa is known for,” King says. “She practically builds the house into the environment. The boundary between the inside and the outside becomes blurred so that it gives the place a really open kind of feeling.” A feeling, Scrafano and Mendel might echo, that translates to serenity.
By Jill McDonnell
Photos by Ike Bahadourian