Canadian born Noah Mills is a fashion icon, considered one of the industry’s top male models of all time. Over the years, he’s also ventured into acting, staring in movies such as Sex and the City 2 and shows like Two Broke Girls. With his success both on screen and in fashion campaigns, he decided to put down roots in Los Angeles by purchasing a single-story bungalow in Venice. Although the location was ideal, right off of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, it lacked the space and privacy that he was looking for. He then hired Brett Appel as well as brought on his own brother, Ian Mills, who is an architect, on the project.
“Ian Mills is a friend from graduate school, and also an architect with whom we collaborated on the design,” Brett, principal at Appel Architecture shared. “It was a unique experience working with siblings on this project, especially when one is the client and the other is in more of a designer role. There was lots of good-natured ribbing!” Luckily for Brett, both brothers have excellent taste when it comes to design and were easy to work with. “Noah took the lead on furniture and decoration,” Brett said. “He has a really good eye for design and was completely on board with the overall aesthetic of the house, so everything he chose really complements the architecture perfectly. There’s no better experience than when you get along really well with a client. The end product is just so much better.”
Beyond the decoration and furnishing, there was quite a large task at hand to get the small 950 square foot bungalow to where Noah wanted it. “The project involved designing a significant addition to the single-story bungalow with a detached garage,” the architect said. “The owner presented a series of design challenges: increase the ceiling heights and floor area of the existing house, maintain as much outdoor space as possible, and maximize privacy in a dense urban environment.”
One of the main ways that both Brett and Ian were able to give Noah more square footage was to build a second story where the bedrooms would be located, freeing up the lower level to the main living areas. “Interior partitions at the ground floor were removed to connect the raised deck in the front to the courtyard between the main house and garage,” Brett explained. “Subtle level changes create a separation between rooms while maintaining an open plan. The living room was lowered to the same level as the courtyard and connected with a large multi-panel sliding glass door. Wood windows frame the newly landscaped exterior spaces. Lush green trees and hedges were shaped along the edges of each outdoor space in order to maximize privacy between the outdoor spaces and neighboring houses.”
The selection of materials had great significance to the overall concept of the home’s redesign. “It was important to have a connection to the landscape, and that the house really feel like a quiet retreat nestled in nature despite being just being half a block from Abbot Kinney,” he said. The exterior entrance, for example, features two contrasting finishes: a white stucco façade and a recessed oak ceiling. Throughout the interior of the home, other natural finishes such as the custom wide plank flooring, the oak treads in the staircase, the Calacatta Vagli Gold marble kitchen counters, and the white laminated birch plywood cabinets, connect the space with the outdoors.
After a year to design, another to receive the permits, and a third for construction, Noah’s dream home was finally complete: an airy, Southern California-style space, with plenty of privacy, and a connection to nature. “It was a lot of fun working with the Mills brothers, something we definitely had not experienced before,” Brett shared. “Since Noah was so deeply involved in the design process, he was thrilled to see the physical results of all the work that we put into it.”