Steven H. Robinson Residence, Robert Nicolais, Architect 1990 1

Steven H. Robinson Residence, Robert Nicolais, Architect 1990

Driving by this elegant modernist home on my way to visit a friend on nearby Dillon Street, I first thought I had stumbled upon a heretofore-undiscovered Rudolph Schindler original. The architect, as it turns out, relates to Schindler in a fascinating way. After earning a B.F.A. degree in Sculpture from Pomona College, Robert Nicolais received his Master’s Degree at the Yale School of Architecture. Arriving back in Los Angeles in 1978, he volunteered at Schindler’s King’s Road House, where the master architect established his reputation as one of the leading modernist architects. Applying his knowledge of sculpture to furniture and working from old photographs, Nicolais created outstanding reproductions of Schindler’s furniture designs for the Kings Road House. Nicolais makes and sells furniture of his own design in addition to his Schindler reproductions to clients across the U.S. and in Europe.

When Steve Robinson decided to build his home on a steep downslope lot in Silver Lake, he turned to his partner, Robert, for the design. Nearly every room in the house takes advantage of the dramatic Downtown L.A. views. The home is strongly reminiscent of Schindler’s work and employs some of his practical ideas as well. The orientation of the south facing windows and the dramatic overhang of the roof provide shade during the hot summer months and sun during the winter. Convective venting allows hot air to escape from the top-level electric windows while drawing in cooler air from the lower levels. A passive solar thermal mass system allows a phase-change salt formula to melt and freeze at 81 degrees, as a way of soaking up energy from the sun. A recently added active solar hot water system in another of the many ‘green’ features. The light filled home includes many examples of Nicolais’ furniture and paintings. The landscaping is mostly natives, requiring minimal water.

The Steven H. Robinson Residence is located at 1700 Rotary Drive