Dezeen Magazine

4/Way House on a hilltop

4/Way House by Deegan-Day responds to "allure and danger" of LA site

US studio Deegan-Day Design & Architecture has designed a California weekend home to hold strong against wildfire and capitalise on views.

Located near the city of Malibu, the 4/Way House sits on a southeast-facing ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains, in a community called Topanga.

Joe Day – a founder of local studio Deegan-Day Design & Architecture – bought the property with his wife, Nina Hachigian, in the 1990s following a devastating wildfire in the area that destroyed 20,000 acres of land. The disaster led to a drop in property values, which made buying a 2.5-acre site there feasible for the young couple.

4/Way House sitting on the top of a grassy hill
4/Way House sits on a mountainous slope in California

Construction didn't begin until 2008, and work happened incrementally over the years. The project was finally completed last year.

The design not only makes the most of the rolling landscape and scenic views, it takes a defensive stance against the threat of wildfire.

"The retreat mediates between competing topography and sight lines, and between the allure and danger of life in Topanga," said the studio.

A house on a hill by Deegan Day Design
The weekend home is designed to withstand the threat of wildfires

In plan, the home consists of two offset bars that are nudged into the hillside and encircled by terraces.

"Surrounding terraces act as both fire buffer and a complement of outdoor rooms," the team said.

The bars are covered with an irregularly shaped zinc roof that folds over the side walls and acts as a "fire blanket".

Structurally, the house is supported by a complex web of steel trusses. The base is made of concrete.

Steps leading up to 4/Way House
The zinc roof acts like a fire blanket

The home's low position on its street, makes it one of the first structures that will confront a wildfire racing up the ridge – a consideration that emerged early in the design process.

"We assessed first what would be left to rebuild if 4/Way did burn, and how the site might shield other homes and safely serve firefighters," the team said.

The interior of 4/Way House
Inside, the occupants can enjoy expansive views of the mountains

Within the home, large stretches of glass offer views of the landscape, yet the two-storey house sits low enough to preserve views for upslope neighbours.

The upper level contains the primary bedroom suite and a study, while the lower floor holds a living room with a "conversation pit", a kitchen and dining area, and a guest room. The house totals 2,250 square feet (209 square metres).

Interior finishes include raw concrete and birch plywood.

The team designed most of the interior fittings and decor, including an angular table in the conversation pit, a stair railing that doubles as shelving and built-in bedroom furnishings.

A birch plywood home interior
A kitchen and dining area and a guest room are on the lower floor

The project's name, 4/Way House, was inspired by four "rotations" that were integrated into the design.

One entailed shifting the house to offer a view of Santa Monica Bay, and another involved configuring trusses to support the angular roof.

A third rotation concerns the layout of cabinetry and the transition between levels in the house.

The fourth refers to the home's detached carport, which sits downhill from the main residence and has a roof that lifts upward, enabling it to double as a movie screen.

A bedroom inside 4/Way House
Birch plywood was used throughout the interior

While currently used as a weekend retreat, there are plans to make 4/Way House a full-time residence.

Other California homes designed with wildfires in mind include a house near Lake Tahoe by Faulkner Architects that is clad in non-combustible materials and a Sonoma County house by Mork-Ulnes Architects that features fire-resistant materials and access for fire trucks.

The photography is by Taiyo Watanabe.

Project credits:

Architect and interior designer: Deegan Day Design & Architecture
Design team: Joe Day, Yo Oshima, Taiyo Watanabe, Sonali Patel, Bonnie Solmssen, Mark Lyons, Felicia Martin, Jakub Tejchman, Tanja Werner, Eva Fernandez-Villegas, Michelle Paul Toney, Noel Williams
Mechanical engineer: CW Howe Partners
Structural engineer: Gordon L Polon Structural Engineering
Construction manager: Chris Riley
General contractor: Kent Snyder Construction
Landscape architect: Dry Design
Other consultants: Bank Welding (metal fabricator), Chris Sheppard and Michele Liu (custom furniture fabricators), Ninotchka Regets (graphic design)

More images and plans

4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
Site plan
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
Section plan
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
A stone interior of a house by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design
4/Way House by Deegan Day Design