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Artist Sterling Ruby’s Compound in the Valley Comes With Outdoor Tub, Kiln Room

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Ruby worked with a team of architects from SCI-Arc to design the Sunland spread.

House with black exterior surrounded by trees. Zen House Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty

Location: Sunland, Los Angeles
Year built: 2009
Architects: Sandy Watts, Tammy Ho, Simon Storey, with Sterling Ruby
Specs: 3 beds, 2 baths, 2,331 square feet, 0.58 acres
Price: $1,189,000


Sandwiched between the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains, Sunland is one of the lowest-density neighborhoods in Los Angeles, thanks in part to its agricultural origins (it was once a region of olive orchards and grape vineyards). Though lately the neighborhood has seen an influx of house hunters nosing around in hopes of finding more space for less money, there are some well-known longtime residents, including the California poet laureate and former congressman John Steven McGroarty, and, more recently, contemporary mixed-media artist Sterling Ruby, whose live-work compound is now on the market.

Located at 8248 McGroarty Street, one mile west of the McGroarty Arts Center, the gated retreat was designed in 2009 by Ruby in collaboration with three architects from SCI-Arc: Sandy Watts, Tammy Ho, and Simon Storey. Several trees are built into the structure of the house, which takes cues from traditional Scandinavian and Japanese design, as well as from the minimalist aesthetic of abstract sculptor Tony Smith.

Living room with walls of pine.
Warm knotty-pine paneling and a concrete-block fireplace add to the Scandinavian-mountain-cabin ambience.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Dining table with a glass wall.
The dining area, featuring built-in seating, overlooks more seating out on a large deck.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty

In contrast with the cooler charred-wood exterior, the interior is mostly done in warm pine paneling for a cabinlike feel. High ceilings and multiple large skylights help brighten up the space. Concrete floors were a utilitarian choice, according to listing agent Carol Stewart. And the simple concrete-block fireplace in the living room is a nod to Sol Lewitt’s concrete-block structures.

Built-in shelves all the way up to the walls.
Full-height built-in shelving becomes walls of art.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty

There are also a whole lot of built-in shelves and cabinets. “Sterling has mentioned that a good cabinetmaker, someone who understands space, is sometimes the most valuable thing when making a place to live,” says Stewart.

Various decks across the house make indoor-outdoor living easy: There’s one off the master bath with a Japanese-style soaking tub, one with built-in seating, and an elevated platform overlooking the hills. Per the listing, there are existing plans for a pool. The 0.58-acre property is dense with oak trees and also includes a studio workshop with a loft and a garage with a kiln room. Take a video tour here.

White cabinetry under big windows.
The chef’s kitchen is all white and stainless steel.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
A living room with pine-wood walls and cabinets.
According to Sterling Ruby, “a good cabinetmaker, someone who understands space, is sometimes the most valuable thing when making a place to live.”
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Bedroom with large window overlooking trees and a skylight.
Natural light pours in from a glass wall and skylight in the master bedroom, which also has glass sliders to a deck.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Bathroom with white tile and glass shower.
The crisp white master bathroom leads to a private deck.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Tub wrapped in wood.
Outside the master bath is a Japanese-style soaking tub.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Loft with big skylight and seating area.
The loft office has built-in desks, skylights, and a peek of surrounding flora.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
A black structure with empty surrounding land.
The property includes a matching charcoal-colored workshop and garage studio.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty
Deck with seating overlooking mountains.
One of the numerous decks on the 0.58-acre property.
ZenHouse Collective for Sotheby’s International Realty