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Let the Property Tell Us What It Wants: An Interview with the Architect of Malibu, Doug Burdge

Whenever I am in Malibu – whether visiting a friend, spending a day at the beach, or enjoying a special dinner at one of Malibu’s many fine restaurants, there always seems to be an incredible house that catches my eye for the first time or a private driveway I wonder what’s at the end of it. The answer is almost always a home by architect Douglas W. Burdge, AIA. I’ve come to learn many have come to refer to Doug as “The Architect of Malibu” and with more than 100 homes built in the area the moniker is apt and earned.

A resident of Malibu himself, we caught up with Doug Burdge earlier this month and here is what he had to say in an exclusive interview for The Hollywood Home.

Photograph by Julie Wuellner.

How does the site inform and influence your approach and vision to the architectural style of the home you are constructing?

One of my “Doug Sayings” and what I always say to a new client is, “Let the property tell us what it wants.” And it’s usually so true that the best designed homes and projects showed ultimate respect to the surroundings.

Do you recognize some of your projects in television and films? If so, which ones?

Besides seeing the Carbon Terrace home recently in another clever Progressive Insurance commercial, it’s always fun to be watching a show on cable/TV and recognizing one of the settings being one of the homes we did…like seeing in a few episodes of Ray Donovan where they used the “Stone House” we did on a Malibu Beach.

“The Stone House” or “Casa di Pietra” is located off of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and has been featured in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

The spectacular two-story beachfront villa is on 2.78 acres with ocean, coastline, & island views and a gently sloping terraced path to beach.

Click here to see more photos.

Who are some of your architectural influences? Or, which architects from the past do you admire most?

Funny as that seems to be a question frequently asked to designers, but I’d say the architect who most influenced my career was “Uncle Bill” Blurock, my mother’s brother. I recall as a teenager on frequent family visits to their custom home in Laguna, that Bill designed and built, I was constantly “drawn” to the home office where he had his hand-drawn plans strewn about. He would let me take them home to trace over. So I attribute those early family visits to one day enrolling in the same college Bill Blurock attended (USC) and why I still only hand-draw each and every new project that comes into our office. Bill passed away a few years ago but his legacy (and tremendous success in Orange County) lives on.

Can you tell us about the house you grew up in?

Our family home in the post-war suburb of Encino was a classic one story rancher. I remember as a very young child my parents telling me about the opportunity they had to meet with a builder and design their family home for me and my two brothers…so, I guess back then they didn’t bother hiring an architect!

How do you define the Rustern style? What sets it apart from other architectural styles being built today?

When I created (and ultimately copyrighted) the name “Rustern”…it was an ode to both a rustic (older/classic) and modern (new) way of living …living then transitioning to the ever-changing design world. in fashion design, one might say it’s Rustern wearing ol’ torn jeans and a crisp white shirt or blouse, whereas in architectural design it’s the blending of “old and new” that sets apart most projects from being called just good-looking to outright stunning.

How important is using sustainable materials and eco-friendly designs for your projects?

It’s actually more important than ever to make sure every “built building” has these types of materials and features integrated and fully specified that are sustainable.

Palisades Traditional

Can you describe your most challenging project?

Probably the most challenging project is not one specific home or building…its the “living up to the challenge” to go from one architectural style to another…and end up being successful with a specific project’s creation in that regard. So, being asked to go from Traditional to Modern to Mediterranean (and even to Rustern!) offers the biggest challenge. Somehow, I am able to go from one architectural style to another and not miss a beat in terms of not losing my passion to create new and innovative designs.

Can you describe an evolution in your work from when you began until today?

One way we have evolved is to not think design and innovation is based on a past success. One needs to be open-minded to change. I truly believe most change is for the better.

Malibu Farm House

How important is collaboration in you and your team’s work?

I believe no architect can truthfully say it’s solely their own idea or creation. It takes a compete team of talented “helpers” to pull off any project…not just nowadays while working with all the “red tape” but even “back in day.” Successful architects, I believe, always had a helper…they just probably would never admit it!

How has Covid-19 affected your work environment and your process?

Working throughout these “Covid Times” are in so many ways what our office endured during the recent Malibu fires almost two years ago. We had no choice but to all work from home as our office was “on fire” and had to be completely remodeled. Back then we did not have ZOOM so now it’s even easier and more efficient to work remotely.

How would a good friend of yours describe your work?

Diverse, but easy to live in.

Casa Bindley

What have you seen on recent travels that inspires you?

Funny as any recent travels are certainly what one would typically associate as “travels abroad,” where one gets architecturally inspired, like in Italy…but actually recent driving trips to “wide open” states like Idaho and Montana have inspired me to greatly appreciate how much the rugged environment and abrupt changes in weather continue to play a key role on an “architect’s way of life.”

What advice would you give to a young architect?

Don’t give up on the passion. Being an architect is truly a “passion profession.

Do you live in one of your own homes?

Yes, we will eventually once our Broad Beach remodel is completed!

What is it about Malibu that you find so inspiring?

It may be a cliche but it’s true when they say “Malibu is a Way of Life.” It’s about living (and raising our twin sons) in a great community of people while all along being surrounded by the sheer beauty of our local environment…the mountains and the sea.

Find out more about Doug Burdge and his projects here.

Jacqueline Tager | CalBre#: 1476997
jacqueline.tager@sothebyshomes | (323) 697-3040
Sotheby’s International Realty – Los Feliz Brokerage
1801 N Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027

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