Welcome to Ama House, a
Step into the home and be amazed by the art-filled space and contemporary design elements, all highlighted by the natural landscape and the site’s abundant, natural light. Discover artistically arranged vignettes, a curved masonry wall rising nearly 30 feet (9,14 m) along the length of the property, and a tribute to the late XTEN’s co-founder, Austin Kelly.
About Ama House
Nestled into a hillside in the Pacific Palisades, aMa House is a sublime and spiritual retreat– a transformative, open and art-filled private residence designed to blur the lines between indoors and out and maintain a strong connection with nature.
XTEN Architecture has crafted the award-winning aMa House, a custom residence for shoe designer Cydney Mandel and her husband Gary Mandel. Sustainability and biophilic design principles are leveraged to create a dynamic tapestry of seamless layered environments that are connected, complementary, and integrated.
A Holistic Design Approach
The masterfully planned site and carefully orchestrated flow follow a holistic, protean approach. A diverse collection of spaces allows for a multitude of activities, opportunities for public entertaining, and private moments to occur simultaneously. Each reveals the discovery of artistically arranged vignettes and contemporary design elements highlighted by the natural landscape and the site’s abundant natural light to evoke a sense of sublime wonder. Monika Haefelfinger, President of XTEN Architecture, states, “Once inside the house, sliding glass walls open in every direction creating a sense of transparency and lightness– of being one with nature.”
Unique Architectural Features
A curved masonry wall, which rises nearly 30 feet (9.14 meters) along the length of the property, is one of the home’s unique architectural features. Haefelfinger explains, “We embraced the curve by designing a semi-circular façade that follows the form of the street; it was key in providing our clients with privacy from the elevated street which wraps around much of the property.” The curving wall flirts with the orthogonal design of the two-story main house, engaging with and then pulling away to create pockets of exterior spaces in varying shapes and sizes.
Transforming Outdoor Spaces
Enhanced with layered gardens, tree canopies, and water features under the direction of Studio MLA, these spaces become transformative and spiritual. The act of entering the home, for example, offers a sort of ritualistic cleansing as you pass through a courtyard filled with waterfalls and lush greenery. Just inside is the center point of the home– an expansive double-height living space with glass doors on both sides that invite illuminating natural light to flood in.
Creating a Striking Contrast
The art-filled space is interrupted by bookended architectural elements: a poured-in-place concrete staircase forms a striking textural contrast to a tailored oak cabinetry wall. According to XTEN Principal Scott Utterstrom, “The art and the landscape really are the central focus of this space, with the architecture yielding to them.”
A Meaningful Memorial
As a meaningful and enduring memorial to the late Austin Kelly, XTEN’s co-founder who passed away during the planning phases of this project, the client had a concrete caisson excavated from the previous structure permanently placed as a garden sculpture. The artistic tribute can be seen in images just outside of the master bath.
By benching and partially embedding the structure into the hillside, XTEN Architecture minimized the foundations required into bedrock. Natural daylight and air flow freely through the house, eliminating the need for air conditioning or daytime lighting. Rooftop photovoltaic panels and high efficiency systems further minimize the energy footprint of the house.
Photography by Art Gray