Saturday’s Venice Garden & Home Tour celebrates the legacy
By Stephanie Case
Give Steven Shortridge less than 800 square feet, and he could give you a modernist paradise.
Take, for example, the architect’s former Venice bungalow: a tiny structure tucked under the shade of palm trees. Rays of light peeked between the palms and through the home’s windows. A mixture of different woods gave the interior palpable warmth, cooled only slightly by bits of steel. The dining room was a tangerine dream: acidic pops of orange brightened window frames, chairs, even the petals of a floral centerpiece.
“[His home] was like a laboratory for him,” says Andrew Benson, who worked under his wing as a project manager at Shortridge Architects for half a decade.
Like a scientist, Shortridge had a zest for experimentation. In restoring his cottage, he played with angles and disjointed planes, doused rooms with natural light, filled every nook and cranny with hidden storage, and designed with vivid color.
Shortridge brought that passion to others’ homes, too, building many sleek, airy houses in Venice and Marina del Rey.
The Horizon House, his three-story Ocean Front Walk masterpiece overlooking the sea, was one of his last before his untimely death at 52.
This month marks two years since Shortridge’s passing, and the 22nd Venice Garden & Home Tour is honoring his work. They’re hosting a one-night-only tour this Saturday through some of his most vibrant Westside homes.
On the list is the Horizon House, plus two other Shortridge spots. One — with a white, geometric exterior on Rialto Avenue — was originally designed for “House of Cards” producer John Melfi.
“It’s the cleverest construction I’ve seen,” Kelly Layne, the tour’s organizer, gushes of that home, which makes magnificent use of a relatively meager lot.
Both it and the Horizon House started small: with pencil and paper.
“Steven would sketch furiously,” Benson remembers. “A lot of times, when a new project came around, he would disappear for a couple days.” A frenzy
of ideas would spring forth from that solitude, and he’d reemerge “with piles and piles of sketches.”
Those sketches were the start of a meticulous design and construction process that could take as long as four years.
“His attention to detail was insane,” marvels Benson. “Every cabinet was treated as a sculpture or a work of art.”
When building custom storage, Shortridge made painstaking use of every last square inch. His commitment to maximizing space led to unique aesthetic ends — interesting edges, stunning shapes — sometimes veering far from his original sketches.
“The kind of stuff that he designed didn’t require any precedent,” Benson says. “He would come up with something and just figure out how to make it work.”
But when Shortridge died unexpectedly in May 2014, it was his staff that was left to improvise.
“The whole event of Steven passing, it was traumatic,” Benson says. “Unexpected. Difficult.”
Without the team’s anchor, Shortridge Architects were left to complete one of their most daunting designs to date: the Horizon House.
Through the loss, Benson helped finish the project, trying to infuse the space with Shortridge’s spirit.
Their result is nothing short of dazzling. Yards from the water and situated in the sand, the Horizon House evokes the grandeur of a ship jutting toward the open sea.
Its main staircase sweeps you up to an infinity edge pool, stretching the length of the home. Through glass doors is a sun-soaked open floor plan.
When it comes to insane detail, the house is full of them: secret storage, a hidden door. In the basement, a smartly placed window gives you a peek into the pool’s depths.
But there’s one feature that can’t be beat.
Atop the roof, the home’s southwest corner comes to a point, like the prow of a ship. Peering over edge, you can feel like you’re on top of Venice.
“Stephen absolutely loved Venice,” Benson says. “He took special care with the projects he did here.”
Even after his death, that care reverberates through his homes — lingering in every detail, big or small.
The Venice Garden & Home Tour begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at 1016 Pleasant View Ave., Venice. The tour winds through three homes before capping off at Horizon House with a party featuring live music, a tequila tasting and food from Chef Joe Miller. Tickets are $250 per person, with proceeds benefitting the Neighborhood Youth Association. Visit venicegardentour.org.