Down the Rabbit Hole with Hideo Matsunaga

Perhaps my favorite thing about East Lansing is the diversity of folks who live here. Because Michigan State University draws scholars and educators from all over the world, our community comprises people of all different races, ethnicities, and faith traditions. As someone passionately curious about others, this is exciting!

It is in that spirit, that I head “down the rabbit hole” with Hideo Matsunaga, a Japanese-American architect from Los Angeles who recently passed away due to COVID. He came to my attention when his family home was listed for sale. It’s a beautiful, simple mid-century modern house in the Hollywood hills. *

via real estate listing

From the realtor’s listing, the house “incorporates walls of glass sliding doors, skylights and decks to create a sense of spaciousness and bring the outdoors in, typical of Matsunaga’s designs”.

via real estate listing

The living room (here) opens onto the narrow balcony shown above.

via real estate listing

The kitchen has ample storage space with all of the wooden cabinetry. It feels like a cozy place to make a good cup of coffee.

via real estate listing

The concrete terrace is off the combined kitchen/dining area and features separate areas for sitting and dining outdoors.

via real estate listing

This lower level sitting area opens onto another, lower outdoor balcony and has a feeling of airiness.

via real estate listing

The property has many mature trees including lemon, avocado, fig, and loquat. Imagine being able to walk outdoors and pick the avocado to use in your breakfast!

via real estate listing

The laundry room has an especially raw charm. I like the mixture of different colored fiberglass shells and wood vs. metal legs on the Eames Eiffel chairs around the table. Framed art and some other decorative touches have made this utilitarian space feel pretty.

via real estate listing

Check out the listing to see the rest of the photos, the floor plans, and the 360-degree street view.

via real estate listing

Matsunaga’s family home is similar to one of his other notable properties — 420 Lakeview Road in nearby Pasadena. This house was built in 1960, two years before his family home, and is about 50 percent larger with two additional bathrooms. Like Matsunaga’s family home, 420 Lakeview also features balconies and terraces, paneled & beamed ceilings, and lots of big windows.

via real esate listing

Here, you can peek inside the house to see the spiral staircase that leads to the lower level and, outdoors, the large deck.

via real estate listing

Another lower-level sitting room, this one opens to the terrace behind the house. I like the gallery wall inside!

The house was for sale in 2018 and featured then on Dwell. It was either sold, or perhaps re-sold, at the end of January 2021. The above photo comparison shows the changes that were made to the kitchen in those three years. I rather like the way the current kitchen flows around the island. It can feel somewhat claustrophobic to work in a peninsular kitchen like the original. However, the footprint of the older kitchen, including the lower profile backsplash and smaller counter stools fits the midcentury modern bones of the house better.

Part of the rabbit hole includes the following links:

FORT on Instagram

The Friends of Residential Treasures (FORT) tour includes an interview with Hideo Matsunaga and is a must-see when visiting LA.

via Ruby Home

Whether Los Feliz is part of the Hollywood Hills is another aspect of the research I undertook. If you are in LA, you would be much more specific. It’s the difference between Lansing and East Lansing. To residents, it is totally not the same. For our midwestern perspective, though, calling the location of Matsunaga’s family home “the Hollywood hills” is close enough.

One of the public buildings that Hideo Matsunaga was involved in designing was the Center Building in the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center complex. It is a five-story Brutalist structure “softened by upturned roof eaves and stylized brackets that evoke traditional Japanese pavilion and pagoda architecture”.

Matsunaga’s obituary. He had a kind face. May he rest in peace.

Published by eastlansinghome

Carrie Sampson is a longtime resident of East Lansing, Michigan. She has worked in nonprofit communications for over 20 years and in the last decade has become increasingly interested in interior design and issues related to the built environment. Carrie has served as a commissioner on the East Lansing Historic District Commission since 2018. She has written the Eye Candy and Eye for Design columns in the Lansing City Pulse since 2019. To learn more or to work with her, send an email to mrscarrsamp AT gmail DOT com.

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