OWIU Design dreamt up a perfect outdoor oasis for Henry Golding and Liv Lo’s Los Angeles home, which has an enviable sense of tranquillity
When actor Henry Golding and wellness entrepreneur Liv Lo moved into their new abode in Los Angeles, all that was missing was a tranquil outdoor backyard where they could relax and unwind amidst their busy lives.
“We wanted to have an outdoor space where we could spend a lot of time individually, as well as collectively as a family of three,” the couple explains over an email interview. “As a family, we wanted it to be a space where we could spend time together, host parties and gatherings, or simply enjoy the nice weather and fresh air.”
Shortly after closing on escrow, they decided to turn to LA-based firm OWIU Design to break ground on the outdoor oasis of their dreams. An abbreviation for “the only way is up”, OWIU is helmed by Singapore architects Amanda Gunawan and Joel Wong; the multidisciplinary firm’s oeuvre features projects that range between the residential, commercial, and hospitality sectors.
“Amanda and Joel are our friends from Singapore,” says the Crazy Rich Asians star and his wife. “We like them both—as people, as well as designers. Naturally, we thought of them to design our outdoor space.”
Describing the Goldings’ home as “the quintessential Californian home that’s just perfect for their family”, OWIU embarked on the project by factoring in the young family’s lifestyle and tastes.
“When they first showed me the listing, I thought it was perfect for them,” recalls Gunawan. “The only thing that wasn’t quite there yet was the outdoor space. While the outdoor space was there, it wasn’t being utilised to its maximum potential, especially compared to the rest of the house.”
There were some boxes for OWIU to tick, as the couple had their own set of wants and needs. Golding desired “a space to cook and host, as well as a hot tub to relax in”, while Lo was seeking “an outdoor space to do breathwork and meditation, or to work if needed”. For little Lyla, their one-year-old-daughter, they were looking at the backyard “as a space that she could grow up in”.
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The cosy and unpretentious ambience of the outdoor area was embraced by the design team. Working with a soothing neutral colour scheme in order to create a calming atmosphere, the designers sought to create an intrinsic outdoor-indoor living situation inspired by the lush landscape that envelops the home.
“We wanted everything to feel organic. The outdoor space, including the landscaping and surrounding greenery, was a key element to the house—just as the indoor space is,” explains Gunawan. “All of these elements come together to make up the whole house. It was important for us to incorporate the existing indoor space as well as the landscaping to create one unified space.”
The combination of solid wood, white stucco and green marble form a material palette that presents a soothing backdrop for everyday life. “We chose wood as a primary material because it made sense with the rest of the landscaping—the trees, shrubs and other natural elements,” the designer elaborates.
“The white stucco blends parts of the existing house into the outdoor space, while pops of colour, like the green marble, was to add accents to the neutral space as well as complement the existing greenery. We also knew that Henry’s favourite colour happens to be green!”
With Golding’s request for a space to cook and entertain in mind, the team designed a conversation pit to one side. The seating area, complete with a stone and stainless steel kitchenette, features a custom curvilinear wooden bench that surrounds a central fire pit. This cosy communal area allows the family to host conversations easily when entertaining guests.
Dominating the space are flowing lines with rounded profiles; easy on the eye, the curved elements are designed as a seamless transition between spaces. “We wanted to blur the hard edges in order to unify the whole space and have it seen as one cohesive space, instead of two separate spaces being demarcated as indoors and outdoors,” says Gunawan.
Nailing the curves and the process of constructing them and bringing them to life was the hardest aspect of the project, according to the designer. “When we were constructing the curves that we had in mind, we also had to come up with methods of fabrication in order to achieve the right symmetry and asymmetry,” she recalls wryly. “On the computer, we have all of our measurement tools to plot them out, but in real life, we had to create jigs to ensure we have the right axes. It just always gets complex when a curve gets involved.”
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The other end of the backyard features an outdoor spa area, equipped with a hot tub and shower facilities. Exuding calm and restorative vibes, the area draws its cues from Japanese ryokans with the substantial use of wood. “We wanted to create a spa area that was natural, and wood was an obvious material choice. Good quality wood also ages really well with water,” the designer notes.
The wooden slats allow a subtle division between the different spaces, whilst simultaneously letting natural light to filter into the area. Beautiful and functional, the structure brings together light and landscaping effortlessly.
With a peaceful and minimalist aesthetic that offers a sense of serenity, the backyard is the result of a thoughtful mix of bespoke elements and well-crafted details, along with furnishings from Ban Ban Studio and OWIU Goods, the ceramics brand by OWIU Design.
The space is also testament to the design firm’s attention to detail. “Each element of the backyard has a narrative tied to how we imagine the couple will be using the space,” says Gunawan. “We imagined the area in the back for Liv to practice her breathwork or yoga, and maybe even have the space to do it with a friend,” notes the designer.
Lo concurs. “I enjoy the quiet time I get at the empty space at the back. I go there to practise my yoga or my breathwork. When it’s not too hot outside, it’s really nice to have a change in environment and a breath of fresh air while doing the activities I already do on a daily basis. Sometimes Lyla joins me, and she roams around the deck—she has been taking her first few baby steps lately.”
The barbecue area, on the other hand, was a place where the design team envisioned Henry “cooking and hosting, knowing how much he loves to do that”.
True enough, they matched up to the brief this time as well, as Golding reveals, “I enjoy cooking and hosting dinners, and I spend a lot of time in that area doing that. I love that cleaning up becomes much easier because all of the cooking and prepping can be done outdoors, [as compared to] indoors. I also enjoy sitting on the bench with Lyla and reading to her there often.”
Gunawan and her team also envisioned the family retreating to the backyard together. “The hot tub area was for the both of them to have their date nights. The dining and sitting area, as well as all the spaces in between, was where we imagine Lyla playing—her play area is now expanded with the ability to go in and out of the house.”
Seamlessly connecting to its surroundings in more ways than one, the backyard exudes a tranquil ambience and offers the Goldings an idyllic escape from their busy schedules.