L.A. Modern: architect Barbara Bestor.

Photo by Ray Kachatorian

Architect Barbara Bestor sees two interesting things happening in how we live: homes are getting smaller, more qualitative, and workspaces increasingly have a domestic side. The latter, she says, is the result of businesses competing for talent and needing ways to keep employees happy. Whether that means open lounge areas, coffee bars, game rooms, bike storage or showers, this shift means a change in thinking for architects.

Barbara Bestor. Photo by Ray Kachatorian

The same goes for residential life. “How families use space changes with technology, and architects have to work harder to establish communal activities and multipurpose spaces,” says Bestor. “A pull-down TV screen allows the living room to be more than just a TV room, and tiny bedrooms can encourage kids to do homework elsewhere in the house.” She also stresses that she has to be really thoughtful about circulation, both in the home and at work. “Bringing people together is the architect’s responsibility.”

Photo by Ray Kachatorian

Raised on the East Coast, Bestor was lured west by the low-key experimental modernism of Los Angeles. Her book, Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake, traces a new history of modernism and provides a premise to her work: a new, alternate approach to modern architecture. She describes the project as “a love letter to the other side of modernism” and to the city where Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra – two of her inspirations – did some of their best work.

Bestor Architecture in Silver Lake. Photo by Ray Kachatorian

“Since the early 20th century, this area has been populated by nonconformists,” says Bestor, who has been developing her own distinct approach since 1995. Recent projects include Beats By Dre Headquarters, Jamba Juice Innovation Bar, Trina Turk showrooms, and Silverlake Conservatory of Music. She also led the restoration of Silvertop, the spectacular Silver Lake home designed by John Lautner in the 1950s.

Exploring solutions through experimentation, research and graphics, Bestor and her team create more than just buildings and forms: “We design atmospheres,” she says. Increasingly, what they learn in L.A. is applied to residential, retail and commercial projects throughout the country, which is great news for those of us who long for a splash of Silver Lake in our lives.

This book is out of print but you can still find copies online. I found mine at Powell’s Books.


  • Love the photography in this piece. Wonderful read. LA was definitely a great trip. Looking forward to getting out there soon myself.