800 square feet
ABQ: The Blair Residence is situated on a unique (and seemingly difficult) piece of real estate. What’s the backstory here?
Bruce Bolander: The backstory with Blair is actually two-fold. First, my [original] house is slightly up the canyon from the site where Blair is. The lot that Blair is on came up for sale, and it sits in my view of the ocean. In a defensive move, my wife and I felt that we should get that property. And obviously, once we owned it, it made financial sense for us to try to get something built on it. I built [my original home] over sixteen years ago for $50 per square foot, but the house got to the point where it really wasn’t representative of what I was doing or what my clients were wanting. Because Blair is so small, my thought was that we could build something much nicer than we were able to do in my [first] house.
ABQ: Is the small size of the home intentional, or was it determined by the terrain?
BB: The difficulty of the site basically mandated that Blair be that size. But also, there’s just something nice about small homes. They force you to live very simply, but they also allow you to be luxurious in a way. You’re not using unnecessary square footage, so maybe the tile you wanted now becomes more affordable. Or you can do built-in cabinetry everywhere and you don’t need nearly as much furniture. I like the simplicity of small houses as well as the fact that it takes financial pressure off the project.
ABQ: It also seems that the home’s engagement with outdoor space extends its active program.
BB: Yes. Especially for Southern California, you don’t need to live inside all of the time. Most people are working all day, so they’re not at home. And when they are, they’re sleeping for most of the time. In Southern California, in the morning and in the evening, you can go outside for at least 300 days out of the year. What we have at Blair is a 900-square-foot house but almost 2,000 square feet of roof, which protects the building from the sun and the rain but also makes the inside spaces feel much bigger.
ABQ: The Blair Residence is already small, but are there other ways it’s directly or indirectly sustainable?
BB: From an environmental perspective, Blair has very durable materials. That’s important, especially in the Santa Monica Mountains, because, frankly, houses burn down here and need to get rebuilt. A huge amount of the structure is cast concrete, and the rest is framed in steel instead of wood. Beyond that, the house is also utilizing passive-solar and passive-climate management. Blair has a lot of operative windows and opportunities for cross ventilation with the ocean breeze. The idea is making sure that the occupants don’t even need to turn on the heater or the AC. Philosophically, that makes more sense. ABQ