Dean Nota: 718 The Strand

We’re only one week away from the Beach Cities Modern Home Tour and it’s looking to be a great tour. There’s still time to buy tickets at the discounted advanced price for only $30. We at Modern Home Tours can’t wait to hit the LA coast and check out some of these beautiful homes in person. This week, we stopped by The Strand, the legendary piece of beach perched right next to the ocean and had a talk with architect, Dean Nota, to discuss this beautiful property right on the shore. 

1. The house is literally bumped right up to the beach. Were there any designing conflicts when building so close to the water?

There are several unique issues when working on the beachfront.

Understanding the unique nature of the beachfront context:

The dominant physical characteristic of the site is the view of the beach and ocean which is framed by the Hermosa Beach Pier to the north and the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island to the south. This site resides at an urban edge in transition, where a dense fabric of older, unremarkable structures must coexist with larger more contemporary dwellings.  The house attempts to fit into that context with a design strategy that contrasts rectangular stucco elements, defined by site boundaries, with an inner layer of sloping walls and cantilevered deck platforms that suggest the forms of nearby lifeguard towers.


The Hermosa Beach Strand is a very public place.  One issue that all Strand Clients must address is the inherent conflict of opening the house to the view as opposed to creating a private realm, suitable for residential living.  The Reyna house resolves this issue with layers of privacy as it evolves vertically from an entertainment room that opens to the Strand at the ground level, to a semiprivate living/dining/kitchen level, to a private master suite at the top level.  A private guest room is also placed at an intermediate level between the 1st and 2nd floors, that can be accessed from the entry without crossing over the other spaces.


There is no street parking near the site, so the client requested 2 exterior spaces for guests in addition to the 2 enclosed private spaces. So, It becomes necessary to create a double entry that can be approached from two different directions, from the street by car or from the Strand and beach by foot. Seeing that there will be virtually no street parking adjacent to the house, tour visitors may wish to park in the downtown parking lots and walk south on The Strand to this this house.

2. The interior has some incredible use of various shapes, edges and angles. Can you talk a little bit about this unique design?

In general my work is guided by a design process that envisions a building as an orchestrated spatial experience, shaped by site context, light, structure and material expression.  I expand spaces in the third dimension to animate and further order interiors, while detail, craft and material discipline provide a framework for the overall composition.

The experience of this house begins with a modest, low entry and expands in an orchestrated sequence as one moves vertically up the stair.  Arrival at each of the upper levels reveals spaces that are progressively more open and ever increasing in light and view.  Each of the three levels extends outward on to terraces towards the ocean and the horizon beyond.

The heart of the house is a large volume containing the living areas, which are extended to the view through a gently sloping wall of glass.  At the top of the stair, the master suite is contained below a longitudinal vault that defines a visual axis leading to a secluded bathing room at the rear of the dwelling.  To the front of the building, a bridge extends to an observation platform that penetrates the window wall and is seemingly suspended above the beach below.

3. What sort of feel did you aim for the home to have? For example, what type of homeowner did you design the house for?

The Client required a house for one or two people and occasional guests, organized to allow for a public, social interaction with the Strand and the Beach while providing more private domains for entertaining and personal habitation.

4. Natural lighting has to play a major role in this house’s design with all of the glass windows it has. Can you touch on that briefly?

Opening the house to the sky and the view is the principal way that this house reveals itself.  Because the path of the Sun varies by day and season, the experience will always be changing.

5. In a contemporary design-rich city like LA, what role do you think the style plays in the city?

I believe that modernism is not a style, but a way of life.  Modernism is about living in your time and in your place, while looking forward.  Modernism does not look to the past for literal answers, but builds on the precedents of history.  The South Bay is apart of Metropolitan Los Angeles, a city that has established itself as one of the world’s foremost contemporary architectural laboratories.

I am a native of Los Angeles, and see my work as grounded in the region’s cultural history.  I graduated from the Southern California Institute of Architecture, where, after an internship with SCI-Arc’s founding director, Raymond Kappe FAIA, I later returned as a faculty member.  Working ten years in the Kappe Studio nurtured my love for the unique possibilities of residential architecture in the California context that has come to define my work.

To see more work by Dean, be sure to check out his portfolio here.

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