Dezeen Magazine

Two storey concrete and timber house with a grassy back garden and swimming pool

Hsu McCullough orients Los Angeles home around legacy elm tree

Local studio Hsu McCullough has completed a stucco and ash home with an accessory dwelling unit in Los Angeles' that wraps around an elm tree.

Hsu McCullough created the chevron-shaped home, called Psomas, on a wedge-shaped lot in the city's Mar Vista district. The irregularly shaped lot provided the primary inspiration for the design.

Concrete rectangular house with timber panelling on the ground floor and external staircase
The exterior is finished in stucco and ash wood

"This 'pizza slice' lot galvanized a layout containing a slow reveal of gardens, courtyards, patios and tranquil interior spaces as one traverses the residence," said the studio.

The six-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom home is shut off from the narrow front street, with a wood-clad garage, Tesselle breezeblock cement walls and an entry courtyard that conceals the size.

Back garden and swimming pool of a stucco and ash-clad home
The house was organised around an elm tree

Trimming and cleaning an unkempt and overgrown site, the team discovered a 50-foot-tall (15 metres) legacy elm tree that became the organising feature and focal point of the 5,320-square-foot (490-square-metre) house.

From the rear, the home's two level's are made clear from different material programs. The base is clad in vertical, walnut-stained Thermory Ash siding, while the upper level becomes a solid mass with soil-coloured stucco.

Kitchen with white walls, wood flooring, wooden kitchen cabinets and a wood kitchen island
White oak surfaces feature throughout the interior

The heavy exterior materials are juxtaposed by light interiors with white oak hardwood flooring and cabinetry. Sleek black details – like slot fireplaces in Nero Marquina marble walls and clean window frames – add visual interest.

The house is split into two wings: with the shared spaces and private areas separated at the junction, which wraps around the elm tree.

On the northern half, the living room and kitchen are lightened on either side by glazing from the back patio and the central atrium.

"An atrium with set stones influenced by Japanese zen gardens illuminates the space with a soft glow and a therapeutic landscape," the studio said, commenting on the courtyard's passive cooling properties, which help reduce energy consumption.

An oak staircase with a large window overlooking an elm tree
Large windows by the staircase overlook the elm tree

A white oak, mono-stringer staircase sits in the junction of the wings and affords a full-height view of the elm tree.

Upstairs, one wing of the plan includes three ensuite bedrooms along a hallway with a "barkitecture" detail – a low window for the family dog.

Roof terrace with sliding glass doors and stucco wall finish
A rooftop terrace overlooks the surroundings

The primary suite comprises the other half of the second floor, featuring a fireplace wall and a Juliet balcony that connects to the legacy tree and yard below.

A planted roof garden sits above the three-car garage and an exterior Thermory Ash staircase leads up to an oval-shaped roof deck with a kitchenette.

Side entrance of a stucco and ash-clad home with planted garden patches
The home is situated on a chevron-shaped plan

The studio utilised a rooftop terrace to capitalize on views across the surrounding properties, which the studio described as a "suburban canyon" of low-lying buildings, while maintaining privacy in the busy context.

In the yard, a barbecue area and deck sit alongside a rectangular pool and 300-square-foot (28-square-metre) cube-shaped pool house and accessory dwelling unit (ADU), which is also topped by a meadow grass garden roof. A large Brazilian Pepper tree with a circular bench holds the far edge of the site.

Utilizing a similar organizing strategy, Woods + Dangaran designed a nearby Santa Monica home around an olive tree. Similarly, Quebec studio ACDF wrapped a glass home around an apple tree.

The photography is by Dan Arnold.

Project credits:

Architecture and design: Hsu McCullough
Builder: ZGB Homes

More images

First floor, second floor and roof plan of the Psomas house by Hsu McCullough
Rectangular stucco pool house by a residential swimming pool
Stucco and ash-clad two-storey home on a grassy lawn
Stucco and ash-clad home with a swimming pool and elm tree in front
View from above of a garden with a swimming pool and elm tree
Residential back garden with a swimming pool and elm tree
Timber-clad external staircase attached to a stucco home
White bathroom with marble countertop and large window overlooking a garden
Shower wet room with marble floor and red brick-patterned wall tiles
Room with white walls, timber flooring and built-in timber wardrobes
Corner window in a room overlooking an internal courtyard
Roof terrace with planted garden and square paving tiles
A room with large sliding glass doors leading to a planted roof terrace
Exterior of a two-storey stucco and ash-clad home by Hsu McCullough
Exterior of a two-storey stucco and ash-clad home by Hsu McCullough
A white room with floor-to-ceiling glazing overlooking a courtyard
Roof terrace at the Psomas home by Hsu McCullough
Roof terrace with a perforated partition wall at a home with stucco walls