David Montalba, founding principal of Montalba Architects, recently completed a 5,450-square-foot personal residence in Santa Monica, California. The design is based around a vertical courtyard concept with movable wooden screens that make up the facade. These screens help cool the home in an energy-efficient way during the area’s hot summers. Several additional green design elements, including a Tesla Powerwall and solar panels, further reduce the home’s carbon footprint.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
two-story home with wood louvers and a large courtyard

At three stories, the home seamlessly merges indoor and outdoor with the series of operable wooden screens, providing just enough privacy from neighbors. The vertical courtyard connects all levels of the house while a concrete base acts as an anchor to the lower levels. Landscaped balconies and the enclosed courtyard are divided by lush plants and connected with a bridge. The result is an L-shaped plan centered around the courtyard, locking into the site while the second floor hovers above the concrete footing and living quarters on the ground floor.

Related: Santa Barbara home is surrounded by wooden screens for natural climate control 

beige furnishings in white living room with large windows
wood coffee table and beige chairs in room with glass walls connecting to a courtyard

“Given the lot’s size and the neighborhood, the biggest challenge was making sure we didn’t overbuild and maintained some degree of privacy with our immediate neighbors,” Montalba said. “This was achieved by creating a basement level and vertical courtyard in which the house is organized. Los Angeles has a long history of residential courtyard buildings and that in combination with the privacy it offered helped drive this concept.”

large white bed in room with wall of glass behind wood screen
large bathroom with skylights

The louvers provide cross-ventilation over the footprint of the house, while the strategically placed pool provides evaporative cooling to create a breezy corridor through the living area. Adjacent terraced gardens and the perimeter of the home are landscaped with native plants for shading, cooling and stormwater retention.

aerial view of stepped vertical garden

Other eco-friendly features include a rainwater collection system for potable water, a Tesla Powerwall, solar panels and radiant heating and cooling systems. A vertical garden adds more plant life to the home, while a thermal mass in the basement helps further achieve comfortable temperatures year-round. Soft tones and organic colors are featured in the interior design, with floor-to-ceiling length windows to let in plenty of natural light.

+ Montalba Architects

Photography by Kevin Scott via v2com