Sweden-born architect Fredrik Nilsson has completed a wood-clad residence for his family that incorporates Scandinavian modernism and the “bohemian experimentalism of the LA Eastside”.
Located in the Echo Park neighbourhood, the Grafton House sits on a sloped site with views of the surrounding hills and city skyline.
Architect Fredrik Nilsson – of local firm Studio Nilsson – and his wife, the writer Keshni Kashyap, bought the property years ago to account for a growing family.
The 2,400-square-foot (223-square-metre) property was located down the street from their rental home and came with an ageing, 400-square-foot (37-square-metre) cottage.
Despite its humble appearance, the couple saw a “rich opportunity”, purchased the property and set out to build a peaceful sanctuary there.
“The aim was to expand the feeling of space and tranquillity while remaining squarely in the middle of a noisy, walkable part of the city, where the buzz of police helicopters is not uncommon on a daily basis,” Nilsson said.
While designing the house, Nilsson drew upon his experience working on high-density, mixed-use projects. He also tapped into his Swedish roots, as he was born and raised in Stockholm.
His wife’s Indian heritage also informed the design process.
He came up with the idea to build “a small-footprint, urban treehouse – one inspired by Scandinavian modernism and his Indian-American wife’s desire for warmth and colour”.
The old cottage was mostly demolished, and in its place rose a two-storey, 1,850-square-foot (172-square-metre) house that is square in plan.
Facades are clad in raw, oiled cedar. Windows and openings were carefully placed to bring in daylight while also providing privacy.
On the eastern elevation, the upper level extends over the ground floor, forming a shaded entryway.
“Opening the entry gate, guests comment that they feel they have entered a fairyland sanctuary,” said Nilsson.
Within the home, one finds a reverse floor plan, with private areas on the ground floor and public spaces up above. The upper level also contains an office that can double as a guest bedroom.
The home has a number of outdoor spaces, including a small yard, a recessed balcony and a rooftop terrace surrounded by smooth, plaster walls.
The interior features ample use of wood and splashes of colour and texture. Patterned tiles and potted plants help increase the “feeling of warmth and well-being”.
A nook under the staircase serves as a comfy reading spot for the couple’s daughter, who is now nine years old.
Nilsson said the house is meant to embody “mysigt”, a Swedish term used to describe feelings of cosiness and comfort. It is similar to the Danish concept of hygge.
The house also capitalizes on the surrounding views, from distant vistas to a curated view of nearby trees, visible from the upper floor’s stair landing.
“At the top landing, you are met by an oversized, square window framing a verdant view of large, mature trees that sit in an abandoned schoolyard,” the architect said.
For the landscape, the team engaged their neighbour and friend, David Godshall of the landscape firm Terremoto. He designed a garden of native plants that was inspired by fragrance and sound.
Overall, Nilsson sees the house as a fusion of his Swedish roots and the LA neighbourhood where he has lived for over 20 years. He describes it as “a warm strand of Scandinavian modernism combined with the bohemian experimentalism of the LA Eastside.”
Other projects in Echo Park include a backyard studio with a scalloped roofline by Byben & Skeens and a “stealth density” development by Bestor Architecture that features a series of house-shaped volumes on a compact site.
The photography is by Cailtin Atkinson. Drone photography is by Lacey Wood.
Architect: Fredrik Nilsson
Landscape architect: David Godshall, Terremoto
Light fixtures: Brendan Ravenhill, Ravenhill Studio