As part of a home tour series produced in partnership with Sonos and West Elm, Cleo and McShane Murnane invite us high above Los Angeles and into their hilltop home.
For years it seemed like the Murnane residence would only ever exist on paper. Architect McShane Murnane and graphic designer Cleo Murnane watched nearly a decade pass before the cliff-side house finally came to life in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. It was a labor of love nurtured through the birth of two children and the launch of M+, the architecture and design collective the couple founded together in 2008. Today the home illuminates L.A.’s storied hills. A lesson in balance, the slick, cantilevered structure integrates a chic interior with the comfort a young family requires. Nothing good comes easy, and the Murnane home was well worth the wait.
Tell us the story of your home.
McShane: In 2006, we were house hunting but couldn’t realistically buy. We thought, we can afford land, and I’m an architect… maybe we should build a house? Then the market crashed. We had land and a good design, but with the recession, we couldn’t even start construction.
Cleo: The story is a testament to design. We would never have gotten our construction loan approved, but we submitted an architecture and design package to the bank, with a mood board for every room. The loan agent said, “You know, my wife is a graphic designer, and I’ll find a way to make this work.” He worked with us and taught us how to improve our financial situation so we could get approved. It was a long process.
Did you ever second-guess the plans as they sat on a shelf for years?
Cleo: No, it solidified everything. We’d buy each other things for the house while we waited. I actually got a sink on Valentine’s Day. I had bathroom tiles shipped on a boat and they were stuck in customs for six months, but there wasn’t any stress. Every element became really precious because we had the time to think everything through.
What’s the design concept?
McShane: The major concept was that the cost had to stay on target. It would have been more cost effective to build on the street, but part of the ethos of the home is maximizing the view. From the hill, you can see the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park, the valley below us and the San Gabriel Mountains. So we made the foundation as small as possible because a lot of money would go into digging on the hill.
Cleo: There are 70 stairs to our house. It’s like living in a tree fort.