Lisa Romerein

An open-air addition puts family life outside

Sunset  –  June 8, 2005

When David Hertz and his wife, Stacy Fong, built their home in Venice, California, their two young children were content to play in a small, sheltered patio between the house and garage. But with three kids now ― Max, 8, Sophie, 11, and 13-year old Collin, who practices with his rock band at home ― the need for more space was palpable, even audible.

So when the owner of the 40- by 90-foot lot next door agreed to sell the property, Hertz (who is an architect) bought it. On it he built an addition that seamlessly blends with the original house while expanding its indoor and outdoor spaces-a pool courtyard, outdoor living room, covered dining area, and multipurpose family room-for their kids, friends, and teenage musicians.

Inspiration for the design came from traditional Balinese villages, where interconnected buildings, elevated sleeping areas, and openair structures are the norm. “Our home is now a compound of four small buildings linked by three covered bridges,” says Hertz. 

Patio rhythms

The L-shaped addition connects to the original house at a rear corner to define a courtyard with a lap pool. All the pool-facing sides of the new building are movable window walls or entirely open, so the interior rooms feel like exterior spaces. “On nice days we open all the ground-floor doors, which seem to disappear into the architecture,” says Hertz. Some of the oversize doors slide into deep pockets framed into the walls, while others slide behind fixed windows of the same shape and size. It’s almost as if the secondfloor living spaces ― two bedrooms, a bath, and a home office ― were standing on broad stilts. On the first floor is all the fun stuff:

Outdoor sitting room. Tucked into one corner is a trellissheltered outdoor living room in which built-in stucco benches form a partial U beside a novel firepit-lava stone mounded volcano-style around a central gas jet. The patio is covered with Syndecrete, lightweight concrete pavers made by Syndesis (, a company Hertz founded. Tropical plants create a lush green backdrop. Homemade outdoor speakers and downlights enhance the airy space. “At night this outdoor room glows like a lantern,” Hertz comments.

Dining room with sliding doors. For alfresco meals, a pair of glass doors slide out of the way into a corner. “The floors are warmed with a hydronic [radiant]system,” says Hertz. Behind the dining table is a graphic stairway made of ipe (a sustainably harvested hardwood) that seems to float in front of a curtain of bamboo. 

Family room. At the head of the pool lies the family room, where movies, music, and games are the stars. Even though the room has a glass wall, midday movie watching is made possible by opaque curtains that run on hospital track recessed in the ceiling, blacking out the interior. “The thick curtains also help mute the sound of our son’s rock band rehearsals,” says Hertz. At night, for the ultimate in open-air cinema, the projection system can pivot to face the pool and shine on a translucent scrim. The pool area even has surround sound. And at one end of the family room is an outdoor shower stall set in a breezeway. “Now we have a place where everyone loves to hang out. A friend of Collin’s asked me if I had hamsters when I was a kid,” says Hertz. “I guess the house is like a giant hamster playground.” With music.

Lava-rock fire mound. David Hertz designed the firepit to continue the home’s tropical island theme. A 1/2-inch gasline runs beneath the concrete tile decking (Syndecrete tiles from Syndesis). The gasline rises 6 inches through the pavers and connects to a standard gas-fireplace burner, a straight pipe with holes drilled at intervals. Lava rocks are piled around the gasline and burner to form a natural-looking mound, and the flow of natural gas is controlled by a valve with a removable key. The valve lies hidden in the pile of lava rock, out of the fire zone. Hertz lights the fire with a long-handled utility lighter.

DESIGN: David Hertz Architect, Santa Monica ( or 310/ 829-9932)