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Two Awe-Inspiring Modern Homes In Pasadena & San Marino (Photos)

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A South Pasadena-based architect has been building awe-inspiring modern homes that break from the norm in otherwise architecturally bland neighborhoods.

LAist was invited to attend Dwell magazine's home tours recently, and visited the homes architect Doug Ewing built, along with his firm, Ewing Architects Inc. The Walker Residence in Pasadena and the Hsu Residence in San Marino are both essentially very different houses, yet there are unifying elements—like exposed beams and the use of several different materials—that show they come from the mind of Ewing.

Walker Residence

The breathtaking Walker Residence sits in the foothills of Pasadena, which Ewing tells LAist is a conservative neighborhood, architecturally. It's a 6,636-square-foot house built on a one-acre lot. The entrance of the home gives a glimpse of what's to come inside. It's decorated with a mix of materials—from brick to concrete and wood.

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Inside, the high ceilings expose steel and wooden beams, showing the workmanship and structure of the residence. In this house alone, he uses materials like concrete, stainless steel, and different varieties of wood, including bamboo, mahogany and Douglas fir. Even the shower in the bathroom is made of cedar. All the different materials serve as a colorful palate for Ewing.

"I just love wood and structure," Ewing tells LAist. "All my projects expose structure. [It] makes it more complex and interesting."

The beams in the different rooms set off the space in the home. For example, although the living room and kitchen aren't separated by walls and are on a big, open floor plan, you get the feeling like the rooms are clearly defined as distinct spaces since the beams are lower in the kitchen, creating a cozy environment. The raised beams in the living room draw your eye a window that opens up to the trees, and another that that leads your eyes to a window facing the mountains.

Hsu Residence

Ewing calls the Hsu Residence "Pasadena progressive." The 6,576-square-foot home built in 2002 in San Marino has East-meets-West qualities to it. The homeowner, Mary Hsu, wanted to bring her own Chinese culture into the home, and she played a major role in designing the interior of the house with Ewing. Her late husband was tasked with designing the home's landscaping.

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Hsu tells LAist that she wanted a semi-formal home that would be a relaxing and inviting space for her and her family. Rooms aren't overly large so they feel cozy. Feng shui principles are employed throughout the residence, though Hsu says lots of the elements are also more functional, like how the house is facing south so that it can soak up natural sunlight through the windows. The backyard has its own microclimate since it manages to trap in heat with the pool and the back of the house facing a mountain. They have tropical fruit trees like mangoes and lychee that grow back there. Her husband used to make wine from the fruit trees, and they have a wine cellar that still holds bottles of his wines.

Every room has a physical access to the backyard for a smooth indoor-outdoor transition to the gardens, which is a striking element about the house. However, what's most impressive is the fascinating interior design, from the artwork to the furniture Hsu uses in her home. In the living room, her coffee table is actually an old opium bed from China. There's a table that has a piece of glass over an ancient ox saddle. Elaborate calligraphic paintings on the walls come from Hsu's grandfather's work. In one of the rooms, there's an 18th century bench from a Chinese temple that was blessed.

Hsu says she wanted to incorporate these elements from her culture so her mother would know she was thinking of her when she built the house. Her mother only came once to the U.S. to visit her home, and Hsu feels it was worth it for her to see the home like that.

Related: We Toured The Hip, Colorful Los Feliz Dundee Home (Photos)