The steel-and-glass aerie rises from just above the fog line on a hilltop in Malibu, Calif., affording a vista that includes the Pacific Ocean and, on a clear day, Catalina Island. “The house is like a giant eagle that has landed on this site, on top of this mountain,” says Ed Niles, the architect who designed the structure.
The residence has become a retreat for Nick and Maria Moss, who, in 2003, moved from Philadelphia to Malibu after Maria was diagnosed with cancer. “When my husband and I were dating, we drove on the Pacific Coast Highway and I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to live here some day,’ ” Maria recalls. “That was 13 or 14 years ago. When I got sick, I couldn’t take the cold anymore.”
When the couple was planning their move, Nick, the president of a faucet company and a longtime admirer of Niles’ designs, contacted the architect and learned that he had begun constructing the Malibu house, but that the property’s owner had died. (The new building was going to replace a structure that had been destroyed in a 1993 fire, along with more than 200 other homes in Malibu.) The Mosses acquired the property from the estate of the previous owner and worked with Niles to finish the project last year. “The house wasn’t completed all the way—the furnishings, the exterior, the landscaping, the pool [still had to be done],” says Niles, who founded his architectural firm in 1967 in Malibu. “The Mosses vigorously continued developing the design [for the home].”
Like most of the architect’s structures, this residence is an expanse of geometric glass panels. Although his projects may display similar characteristics, Niles says he develops designs based on the tastes and requirements of the clients and studies the specific sites to learn how best to utilize the settings while disturbing the land as little as possible. “All my work is different because all of my clients are different people,” explains Niles.
The Moss home’s unique setting is an intrinsic element of its design. The light on the landscape constantly changes, bathing the building in an endless kaleidoscope of color. Although the interiors are monochromatic—furniture in charcoal grays and blacks, stainless steel cabinetry, white walls, travertine floors, and granite tabletops—the dwelling is flooded with color. The enormous UV-protected windows serve as canvases, the steel beams as frames. “The interest and the shadows that are created, the penetration of the landscaping, all these things are allowed to weave themselves through the house,” Niles says.
Working with Niles and his associate, architect Jim Corcoran, and the Los Angeles interior design firm Hoffman Vest Judaken, the Mosses have created an interior design scheme that is consistent with the structure’s minimalist exterior. “I’m not a junk collector,” says Maria, adding that this made the adjustment from living in her Philadelphia mansion to the Malibu home easier. “I went from 10,000 square feet to here,” she says of the residence that measures approximately 3,700 square feet. “At first it was hard—not the adjustment, but picking out the right pieces.”
Steel steps lead up to an enclosed glass hallway; the artery connects the west wing—where 6-year-old Michael Moss plays and sleeps—to the rest of the building. To the east is the main living area, a triangular room that juts out from the mountainside. The triangular motif is repeated in the glass-and-steel coffee tables that Niles’ firm made, and in the angled placement of the charcoal sofa and chairs. A steel cabinet stretching across one side of the space houses electronic equipment and a television, which a hydraulic lift raises when the family wants to view a program.
The north-facing kitchen showcases Bulthaup cabinetry and opens to an intimate courtyard surrounded by landscaped grounds. Across the hallway, the dining room’s colossal windows convey the impression that one is dining under a covered veranda. The family can dine alfresco on a freestanding balcony that overlooks the Pacific.
In the bedroom suite, a stainless steel concave wall behind the bed has a sculptural quality; it contains a curved closet that extends across the length of the room, providing generous storage. Stairs lead to an upper alcove that serves as an office and repeats the bedroom’s curvilinear design.
The property also includes a separate guesthouse on the ground floor and a shaded colonnade overlooking the pool. The colonnade is a favorite retreat of Maria’s. “This is where I spend a lot of time,” she says. “It’s the perfect place to chat.” Like the rest of the house, this section suits a particular purpose, one that is in line with the tastes and requirements of the owners.
“Every room has a different role to play, just like your body. Your heart is different from your lungs,” says Niles. “Every part of the house is configured to allow it to exist independently, and each part becomes a piece of sculpture.” Maria Moss concurs: “I live in a work of art.”
Edward R. Niles
Hoffman Vest Judaken