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Touring the Breathtaking Kappe Residence in Rustic Canyon

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[Photos by Elizabeth Daniels]

How about a little loveliness to get you through the holiday? This is the Rustic Canyon home of Ray and Shelly Kappe, designed by architect/SCI-Arc founder Ray back in 1965 and finished in 1967. The Santa Monica Conservancy held a tour earlier this fall and we returned again recently to make sure we got it all--the 4,000 square foot house sits on a hillside threaded with underground springs, and it covers a lot of intricate (but always elegant) ground. (The second time we visited, incidentally, Kappe was entertaining a group of young architects from Morphosis in the lower living room.)

From the front of the house, visitors enter over a bridge that crosses an above-ground stream and arrive at the stairwell tower--to handle the spring system (which creates a very deep top layer of soil), Kappe raised the house on six concrete towers covering just 600 square feet. The towers are naturally-lit by skylights and hold their own living spaces: a stairwell, bathrooms, a sunken study and fireplace for the master, and a dining nook. Stairs lead up to Kappe's study and then to the multi-sectioned public spaces: there're two living rooms, a kitchen, and a dining room, at staggered heights across a 75 foot space. The private living areas run perpendicular to the main area--the children's/guest bedrooms (and now an office) toward the back of the site and the master toward the front. Except for some Eames chairs, Kappe also designed all the furniture and cabinetry in the house.

The outdoor spaces are just as layered: there's a garden off the carport, a cantilevered deck extending from the lower living room, and one off the dining rooms that leads up to the pool and garden, which were built in 1980 (that includes a lap pool; a spa; and a poolhouse with a shower, sauna, kitchen, dressing room, and bathroom). That space leads around to a roof deck above the kitchen that's about level with the top of the property. The whole site is dense with sycamore, eucalyptus, and oak trees.

Huge thanks to Ray and Shelly Kappe for letting us into their house and being just completely delightful and welcoming and informative.