Southern California has always been a magnet for those people willing to seek a better life, and fascinated with “starting anew”.

From the Gold Rush prospectors to the returning GIs of the Second Great War, millions have flocked to the hills and shores of the Los Angeles area in search of a dream. The nurturing natural environment and open-minded cultural ambiance fostered a native tradition of innovative and responsive house design. Early experiments in residential design engaged local traditions of adobe construction and colonial Spanish architecture, combining these with the emerging modernist promise of a healthy, modern, open, free-spirited way of living, to be realized through new materials and methods of construction. During the first half of the twentieth century, Southern California modernists produced architecture with an eye sensitive to a particular notion of context, and an expressive use of local materials. Like the en plein air painters, these designers were fascinated by the intoxications of life in the out-of-doors, and were determined to spawn and refine an architecture that was carefully and romantically responsive to the sun, the sea and the sky of Los Angeles.

From the Gold Rush prospectors to the returning GIs of the Second Great War, millions have flocked to the hills and shores of the Los Angeles area in search of a dream.

The stage for the emergence of modernist domestic design in Southern California was set with the establishment of the Alta California Missions in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Spanish Mission architecture represented the germination point for Mediterranean architectural styles in North America. Courtyard planning, simple elemental massing in white plaster, arcaded walkways and wide protecting eaves are elements common to all of the Mission architecture, and these details were well understood and admired by the early modernists as effective strategies for comfortable living in the climate of Southern California.

As the 20th century dawned, a new point-of-view in architecture emerged from the cross-pollination of modernist thought between America and Europe. The European modernism of Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius crossed the Atlantic, as the Bauhaus avant-garde came to teach at American universities, and young modernists traveled to America in search of open spaces and artistic freedom. Frank Lloyd Wright established a home-spun organic modernism in the American midwest and west, and inspired a generation of European designers with the German publication in 1910 of the Wasmuth Portfolio of his prairie house designs.  Inspired by the architecture of the Missions, Irving Gill abstracted the Spanish Colonial into a elemental yet romantic modernism through his work in Los Angeles and San Diego. The young architects Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra came to America initially to work under the master Wright, but quickly settled into practice on their own in Los Angeles.

Schindler and Neutra soon became mesmerized by the potential of a bright, healthy, modern life in the benign climate of the Los Angeles area. Schindler’s own house on King’s Road in Hollywood, which he initially shared with Neutra, and Neutra’s design for the Lovell Health House in the hills above, were early manifestations of the profound optimism of their design approach. Clean, abstracted massing, a simplified material palette, and a seamless integration of the indoors with the outdoors exemplified their approach to domestic - these were houses carefully fine-tuned to the bright sunshine and the emerging modern lifestyle of Los Angeles.

Our homes are all located in this region, where incredible natural diversity has offered boundless opportunities for those arriving on its shores - a verdant, sunlit promised land, where anything seems possible, a creative climate of eternal sunshine and confidence, unrestrained energy, and free-flowing inspiration.

Following the lead established by Wright, Schindler and Neutra, soon the next generation of the Southern California avant-garde was populating the hillsides and coastline with a wave of warm, responsive modern domestic architecture. Gregory Ain, Rodney Walker, Craig Ellwood, Harwell Harris, Albert Frey, A. Quincy Jones and Pierre Koenig, to name but a few, extended the legacy established by their masters, creating houses that were at once highly individualistic, yet conveying a shared, hopeful vision of the “good life” of Southern California.

We view our work as a part of this optimistic legacy. Our practice is rooted in and arises out of the expansive, continuously inventive natural and cultural environment of Southern California. Our homes are all located in this region, where incredible natural diversity has offered boundless opportunities for those arriving on its shores - a verdant, sunlit promised land, where anything seems possible, a creative climate of eternal sunshine and confidence, unrestrained energy, and free-flowing inspiration.

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About Us

KAA Design is a leading-edge design studio dedicated to advancing the California lifestyle through contemporary architecture. For over 25 years, we have created one-of-a-kind homes that place a premium on comfort and beauty, elevating the rituals of daily life from the mundane to the sublime.

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Our Thinking

An Interview with Million Dollar Decorating

Founder Grant Kirkpatrick was recently interviewed by James Swan on his popular podcast Million Dollar Decorating. Listen to or download the interview transcript here.

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