Three years ago, Jerome Byron, a young architectural designer in Los Angeles, received a call from landscape architect David Godshall of AD100 firm Terremoto. He and colleague Diego Lopez were in the process of designing a client’s backyard in Los Feliz, and their plans included an empty box labeled “Guest House.” Would Byron meet the customers and look at the website?
The grounds were fairly bare—large and open, with a stepped lawn and a few low shrubs—but it would soon be a veritable jungle, mingling with agaves, cacti, palms, ferns, and other native plants. At the back was the designated lot, approximately 13 feet by 18 feet, on which a structure was to be erected. “At one point I realized, ‘Oh, wow, I’m doing my first basic structure,'” recalls Byron, now 33, who studied architecture at Pratt and Harvard University Graduate School of Design and got his first taste of the work Francis Keré and Barkow Leibinger.
The assignment was playful. Clients Brandi Dougherty, a writer, and Joe Fernandez, an entrepreneur, needed a place to work from home and store Joe’s pinball collection—perhaps in a place their kids would love too. Byron’s mind immediately leapt to his own childhood hiding places. “Mine were pretty simple — a couple of two-by-fours on a tree with a little platform,” recalls the designer, who grew up between New York and Ohio. “I’ve always had a fantasy of a really elaborate tree house.”
Now was his chance to make that dream come true. Invisible from the street, the cedar-clad volume (a visual continuation of the decking Terremoto installed for the main house) emerges from the lush landscape with a dynamic roofline and irregular windows. “The house seems to be floating,” explains Byron. “It’s raised about a foot and a half off the ground, with a clearing below. You can see plants popping out.”