Newcomer Michael Parks has unveiled his first project, his very own home in the Laurel Canyon section of LA’s Hollywood Hills. This three-bedroom, three-bathroom residence took about a year and a half to complete, completely designed and created by Parks himself after receiving budget-busting bids from architects. Using his skills in project management, budgeting, and a passion for architecture, Parks — who has no formal architecture training — ended up creating not only a new house but perhaps a whole new career!
Once he found himself a contractor, it all seemed to fall into place. And the result speaks for itself.
From the press release:
Parks faced countless challenges when he purchased the house: severe dry rot and termite damage to every area of the wood, post and beam-built house; windows that did not connect with their frames; a poor floor plan with little worthwhile usable space and only one proper bedroom; a kitchen where Parks actually put his foot through the rotted floor; poor ventilation with no insulation and an oddly shaped lot coupled with difficult hillside conditions. But Parks looked past the dwelling’s numerous issues and instead saw incredible, unrealized potential.
With a contractor on board and with the housing market going bust, Parks had no choice but to dive in. Never one to take the easy road, Parks immersed himself totally into the project and was hands-on from day one, tackling all the architecture, design, budgeting, permit and inspection approvals, as well as complex landscaping issues. In fact, many days Parks could be seen dangling 40ft. in the air staining wood — an undertaking befitting Parks — a man whose vision, drive and spirit of adventure led him to ascend the treacherous slopes of Mt. Everest in 2000. “With this house, the learning curve and the difficult lot were both steep to say the least,” Parks said, “the only way to accomplish this was to make it a full time job.”
Parks’ love of architecture began as a child in Washington, D.C. where he played in a house designed by modern architect, Richard Neutra. “I loved the spacious openness, bold lines and floor to ceiling glass, which were in direct contrast to the prevailing colonial and traditional architecture of Washington, D.C.,” said Parks. On weekends in Los Angeles, just for his own enjoyment, Parks found himself taking walks with his wife, searching out houses by the great modernists, not realizing he would soon be putting this inspiration to use on his own property.
The Parks House now stands as a testament to forward-thinking, sleek, open, airy and inviting modern architecture that accomplishes the rare feat of combining a minimalist aesthetic with both comfort and hip, understated luxury. With impeccable proportions and bold geometry, Parks’ design uses the strategic and artful interplay between horizontal and vertical volumes to define the home’s appearance — engaging and heightening the senses of those who visit.
“There is a story for every square inch of the house,” Parks said. One standout design-forward feature, that was perhaps the most challenging design and remodeling detail of the project, is a breath-taking wall of glass that looks out onto a striking canopy of trees. To achieve this, Parks turned a deaf ear to many who told him that he would not be able to find glass that was energy efficient, thermal, double glaze, and large enough for his design. Parks also thought outside of the box to create a dark, vertical, metal cladding element for the exterior by using sustainable metal standing seam roofing, usually seen on large commercial buildings, and cutting it into various widths to create a beautiful, cascading design.
Other distinguishing features include a stunning wood-trellised box-framed window; a portion of the house sheathed in exquisite, sustainably-harvested exterior wood cladding; and the extensive use of sustainable and eco-friendly building materials throughout. In addition, landscaping walls made of recycled concrete from old driveways; floor to ceiling glass reminiscent of its mid-century modern roots; and an outside waterfall created with small pieces of discarded slate add distinctive detailing to the house.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects of this project is that the creation of the Parks House, borne from a love of architecture and design, has turned into a new career for Parks, who, mid-way through construction, began taking technical architecture courses at night at UCLA. Parks said, “I remodeled the house and the house remodeled me.
“I heard a quote once: ‘There’s how we live and that is food, clothing and shelter. And then there is why we live… and that’s called art.’ The goal was to create a house in which we were surrounded, inside and out, by warm, modern architecture that is art, but could be lived in comfortably.”
Photos by Billy Marchese and Michael Parks.