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California Contemporary: The Houses of Grant C. Kirkpatrick and KAA Design

California Contemporary: The Houses of Grant C. Kirkpatrick and KAA Design

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California Contemporary: The Houses of Grant C. Kirkpatrick and KAA Design

206 pages
49 minutes
May 15, 2018


The stunning houses of Grant Kirkpatrick and his firm, KAA Design, exemplify why so many of us look to Southern California as the pinnacle of sophisticated modern living. Two dozen magnificent custom homes,modern in style, are built of sensuous materials and sited to make the most of nature, views, and sunlight. This collection of visionary residences, shown in gorgeous photographs and colorful drawings, represents the California Dream, by an architect chosen by celebrities including TomHanks and Rita Wilson, Matt Damon, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for their personal retreats. Kirkpatrick offers his reflections on these beautiful projectsand the design strategies behind their creation.
May 15, 2018

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Grant Kirkpatrick, a native son of Southern California, writes and speaks frequently on Southern California as a hotbed for design. His work has been extensively published in design magazines such as Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, New York Times, L.A. Times, Coastal Living, Sunset magazine, and the Robb Report. His outdoor furniture is available through Design Within Reach, as well as a line of prefab homes.

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California Contemporary - Grant Kirkpatrick


Residential design is the most personal and powerful platform for architecture to affect our lives. We know this because the word home is powerful for all of us. I am a third-generation Californian who grew up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, about fifteen miles south of Los Angeles. My earliest memories of home are of the land: rolling hills, views of the city sprawling out below, and nature everywhere. My father had a real job, but his true passion was taking care of the two acres of land we lived on. He saw in it the color, texture, and sounds of nature. I saw it as mowing, weeding, and irrigation repair. The work did pay fifty cents a week, but what I didn’t yet perceive were the values that this time in the garden would imprint so deeply on my psyche—values so powerful that they form the very essence of how I view the world, and my work, today. They define my connection to nature, and that informs the way I see beauty.

Architecture chose me when I was a young kid and my parents remodeled their traditional ranch house on this property. My fascination was piqued the night I borrowed the contractor’s plans and drew all over them. The next day, after a stern lecture, my dad introduced me to two elements of what would become my whole world: a drafting table and stool. That was it: architecture would be my manifestation of beauty. Later, when I went to the University of Southern California to study architecture, the connections between my passions for modern architecture and landscape design crystallized. I have traveled the world, and (much to my wife and kids’ chagrin) our trips are mostly architectural and wine-region junkets. But I have always returned to Southern California, situating my firm and my family near the beach, where the light is sublime, the optimism abundant, and the lifestyle untethered.

Since beginning my independent practice in 1988 in a small shop near the Santa Monica Freeway, I have designed hundreds of houses across California and beyond, and with two partners and staff of roughly thirty-five have built KAA Design into one of the largest residential architecture and landscape design firms in the state. But it is California’s imprint that deserves the credit for the houses I design. I am blessed to be living in this spectacular climate, where a love of nature can be nurtured like nowhere else.

I am grateful for the many collaborations that have allowed me to exercise this passion. And although I have never done the same thing twice, after thirty years of creating homes, this book provided the opportunity to depict the unique ideals that inform my work. The introduction, The Nature of Nature, describes my background and philosophy though the lens of our ranch and vineyard in Central California. Part One illustrates the six principles of my design through examples representing more than thirty KAA houses. Part Two showcases six homes to tell their entire story.

My hope is that you pour yourself a nice glass of Syrah, put on a little music, and share in some of the beauty that we are drawing from this golden land of dreams.

Grant C. Kirkpatrick, 2017



Split Rock Ranch is located on the shores of Lake Nacimiento, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the Paso Robles wine region.

The thirty-acre property encompasses two prefab homes, a four-acre vineyard, and a large barn, along with other outbuildings.

Aplace where we could get dirty, where we could be outside all day and into the night…a family retreat while our kids were growing up…a place where friends and family could visit and do old-school things like play horseshoes, lounge in hammocks and swings, pass lazy hours on the dock, throw big cookouts, and put on talent shows in the evening…a place to connect with nature.… This is what my wife, Shaya, and I wanted, for ourselves and for our kids. We knew how we wished to live; what we didn’t know was where. And so we began our search, one that lasted for years. And when we found the property, we bought it. Sight unseen. That’s how Split Rock Ranch came to be.

The first time I saw the land, I was with my son Jack. Together, we made the four-hour trek north from our home in Los Angeles to have a close look at the property, which sits on the shores of Lake Nacimiento in Central California. As we hiked all around the thirty acres, filled with pine trees and old—very old—majestic oaks, we couldn’t quite believe it was ours. The property was completely undeveloped and in need of a

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