Architect Frederik Nelson drapes his Los Angeles home in oiled cedars
Swedish-born architect Fredrik Nilsson completed a wood-clad residence for his family that incorporated Scandinavian modernism and “Los Angeles East Side bohemian experimentalism.”
Grafton House is located in the Echo Park neighborhood on a sloping site overlooking the surrounding hills and city skyline.
Architect Fredrik Nelson – of local firm Studio Nelson – and his wife, writer Keshni Kashyap, bought the property years ago to support a growing family.
The 2,400-square-foot (223 m2) property was located down the street from their rental home, and contained a 400-square-foot (37 m2) old cottage.
Despite its modest appearance, the couple saw a “rich opportunity,” so they bought the property and set about building a quiet retreat there.
“The goal was to expand the feeling of space and calm while remaining right in the middle of a bustling, walkable part of the city, where the noise of police helicopters is not uncommon on a daily basis,” Nelson said.
When designing the home, Nelson relied on his experience working in high-density mixed-use projects. He also took advantage of his Swedish roots, having been born and raised in Stockholm.
His wife’s Indian heritage also influenced the design process.
He came up with the idea of building a “small-scale urban treehouse—one inspired by Scandinavian modernism and his Indian-American wife’s desire for warmth and color.”
The old house was mostly demolished, and a two-story, 1,850-square-foot (172 m2) square-shaped house was erected in its place.
The facades are clad in raw, oiled cedar wood. Windows and openings have been carefully placed to bring in daylight while also providing privacy.
On the eastern elevation, the upper floor extends above the ground floor to form a shaded entrance.
“When the entry gate opens, guests comment that they feel like they have entered a fantasy land haven,” Nelson said.
Inside the house, one finds a reverse floor plan, with private areas on the ground floor and public spaces above. The upper floor also has an office that can serve as a guest bedroom.
The house has a number of outdoor spaces, including a small yard, a cozy porch, and a rooftop terrace surrounded by smooth plaster walls.
The interior design features abundant use of wood and splashes of color and texture. Patterned tiles and potted plants help add to the “feel of warmth and well-being.”
A nook under the stairs serves as a cozy reading spot for the couple’s daughter, now nine.
Nilsson said the house aims to embody “mysigt,” a Swedish term used to describe feelings of warmth and comfort. It is similar to the Danish concept of hygge.
The house also takes advantage of the surrounding views, from distant views to the landscaped view of nearby trees, which can be seen from the upstairs stair landing.
“On the upper floor, you are met by an oversized square window framing a green view of large mature trees set in an abandoned schoolyard,” the architect said.
For the landscaping, the team engaged their neighbor and friend David Godshall of the landscaping company Terremoto. He designed a garden of native plants inspired by their fragrance and sound.
Overall, Nilsson sees the house as a combination of his Swedish roots and the Los Angeles neighborhood where he has lived for more than 20 years. He describes it as “a warm series of Scandinavian modernism combined with Los Angeles East Side bohemian experimentalism.”
Other projects at Echo Park include a backyard studio with a clamshell roofline by Byben & Skeens and a “stealth density” development by Bestor Architecture that features a series of house-shaped volumes on a compact site.
Photography was by Caelten Atkinson. Drone photography by Lacy Wood.
structural engineer: Frederick Nelson
Landscape architect: David Godshall, Teremotu
light fixtures: Brendan Ravenhill, Ravenhill Studio