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The 15 Best Residential Architects in Malibu, California

14 Min Read

Last updated on May 27th, 2024 at 06:37 am

Malibu has always been California’s coastal paradise. Because of this, it has become a beacon of inspiration for many designers and artists. Some of these artists include impressive architects who carry their artistry into unique homes that are eco-friendly, light and airy with open floor plans, and specially designed to cater to California’s climate and overall aesthetic.

By designing artful homes that embrace the outdoors, many of the best residential architects in this list have completed residences recognized by industry publications and have been purchased by well-known celebrities. Alongside years of experience crafting beautiful homes, these firms are also associated with organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and are LEED accredited professionals.

If you are thinking about building a custom home, we recommend checking each builder’s license with the local licensing board, speaking to past clients, and using our bidding system to get competitive quotes from at least 3 contractors. Getting multiple bids is the best way to ensure you get a fair price and that bids include the complete scope of work.

Studio Bracket

28990 Pacific Coast Hwy. Suite #A204, Malibu, CA 90265

Studio Bracket calls itself a small architectural firm but after years of producing extravagant homes, this exceptional firm has grown to be recognized by Archdaily, Mid-Century Home, and Contemporist. Among its dominantly modern homes, the Malibu Crest residence is the most notable project in its portfolio. Designed by Wayne Chevalier and Adin Dunning, this remodeled home is set atop a bluff where there are panoramic views of the Malibu Pier, Surf Rider Beach, Malibu Lagoon, and the Santa Monica Mountains.

An international style home with a floor plan that embraces the outdoors, it features beautiful Bouquet Canyon stone walls, porcelain tile floors, and a blackened steel fireplace with anodized aluminum louvers and columns. With projects like these, the firm has serviced clients across Puget Sound and Southern California for many years.

Amit Apel Design

33202 1/4 U Mulholland Hwy., Malibu, CA 90265

For 20 years, Amit Apel Design has built a reputation for designing beautiful Malibu homes that come in various designs. Usually, an Amit Apel Design home can be recognized for having a modern, Spanish, or traditional style that subtly exhibits founder and principal Amit Apel’s high-caliber artistic background.

Combining its principal’s popular artistry with the boutique custom homes the firm creates, Amit Apel Design has been recognized by several industry publications like Voyage LA, Modern Luxury, California Home Design, and LA Times among other publications. Over time, the firm’s projects have been completed in other states and international regions including Europe, Asia, and South America.

Hamilton Architects

12240 Venice Blvd. #25, Los Angeles, CA 90066

A firm operated by seven people, Hamilton Architects is a full-service firm for clients in California, Nevada, and Washington. Over the years, the firm has become popular for doing custom and spec home design, renovation of historical structures and neighborhoods, retail and restaurant projects, and interior design. The Malibu Vista #2 residence is a great example of its work. A single-story home that exhibits the firm’s experience in designing modern homes, it’s a snug residence that welcomes natural light and outdoor experiences through large door-to-ceiling windows and retractable glass doors that open up to a backyard and fireplace where guests can be entertained.

As a firm that has completed various types of structures, Hamilton Architects has been featured in a number of industry publications including Worcester Magazine, LA Eater, and NY Times among several others. Such recognition is not only credited to its expert team but also to the experience and guidance of company principal John Hamilton AIA.

Cory Buckner Architects

990 Hanley Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90049

Cory Buckner, Architect is an architecture firm that has worked for high-caliber Hollywood celebrities like Courtney Cox, Tomb Raider producer Patrick McCormick, top costume designer Colleen Atwood, and many cast members of LA Law including Corbin Bernsen, Richard Dysart, and Susan Ruttan. Known for producing homes that are dominantly contemporary and influenced by mid-century modernism in their design, the firm has been recognized by industry publications like LA Magazine and Dwell among others. One great example that such publications have recognized is the Brentwood Residence.

The Brentwood Residence is set in the well-known postwar architectural community of Crestwood Hills, designed by A. Quincy Jones, Whitney R. Smith, and structural engineer Edgardo Contini, Buckner designed the new 4,000 square foot house and 1,400 square foot studio to step down the hillside and blend with the community. Maintaining the neighborhood’s modest, modernist character while capturing the view of Santa Monica Bay created a challenge. To accurately stay within the neighborhood’s context, the home has flat and butterfly roofs, exposed natural materials, large expanses of glass that dissolve the boundary of the indoor and outdoor spaces, and a one-story elevation from the street.

Projects like these are guided by the experience of professionals like Cory Buckner. Aside from being the author of A. Quincy Jones, Crestwood Hills, the Chronicle of a Modernist Utopia, The Lyman House and the Work of Frederic P. Lyman, and A Cambridge Modernist: The Architecture of David Wyn Roberts. Buckner was named by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the Six Women who Changed the Face of L.A. Architecture.

Steven Kent Architects

6398 Sea Star Dr., Malibu, CA 90265

Brentwood, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Malibu have been privy to Steven Kent Architects’ high-end minimalist modern designs. Aside from having a signature liveliness and warmth, the firm’s residences are characterized by dramatic volumes and a seamless flow of space. A great example of these beautiful homes is Tron movie producer Donald Kushner’s Malibu dream home. Featuring bold lines composed of sandblasted concrete and weathering Cor-Ten steel, it gives the usual indoor-outdoor experience highlighted by large glass panels in the main living room that disappears into the hidden wall pockets.

Impressive open floor homes like these have gained the firm lots of recognition from publications like Elle Decor and The Wall Street Journal among other publications. This recognition and praise can be credited to company principal Steve Kent. Aside from his expertise as a general contractor and real estate broker, Kent has worked with Frank Gehry on the world-famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Sorensen Architects

5855 Green Valley, CirCulver City, CA 90230

An award-winning architect and general contracting design firm, Sorensen Architects is recognized for giving warmth to modernist styles. So far, its beach home projects have dotted California’s coastline and hillsides. Despite its different projects, the firm’s designs combine modern engineering with classic principles that result in unique homes. So far, these residences have gained Sorensen Architects recognition from publications like The Wall Street Journal, Ocean home Magazine, Malibu’s Residential Architecture, and California Style Magazine among several others.

This recognition is credited to the abilities of not just a highly capable team of professionals but also to the experience of co-principals Christopher Ryan Sorensen AIA and LEED AP and Adria Sorensen who also serves as the firm’s interior designer.

David Lawrence Gray Architects

5938 Philip Ave., Malibu, CA 90265

Whether it be homes in California or Colorado, David Lawrence Gray Architects has a portfolio of residences that extend from the adaptive reuse of historic structures to the ground-up construction for both residential and commercial structures. Over time, these projects have earned David Lawrence Gray Architects recognition from several publications like LA Times, Architect Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Curbed LA among others. So far, this recognition has gained it a plethora of clients that ask for the creation of projects like the Mountain Village Residence in Colorado. Located in Telluride and modeled after the city’s famous Pandora Mine, it uses COR-TEN steel and cedar board and batten siding that points to gracefully aging materials used back in the 1800s. This material was also used with the home’s steeply angled roofline. Though these materials highlight an old-timey concept, it has a modern styled interior that uses ecologically-sound bamboo floors to create a minimal and thoughtful environment.

Currently, the firm’s projects are handled by company principal David Lawrence Gray FAIA. After two years working with Pritzker award-winning architect Dr. Frei Otto in Europe before traveling the continent, Gray has become the founder of the Robert H. Timme architectural research center at USC and has been acknowledged in several books and magazines that recognize his excellent designs.

Bestor Architecture

2030 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027

Since 1995, Bestor Architecture has been known for giving dominantly modern artistic forms, shapes, and character to the communities and neighborhoods the firm has serviced. Over time, it has completed projects that have brought recognition from publications like Architect Magazine, NY Times, LA Times, Vogue, and California Home and Design. The Malibu House is a distinctly notable residence that calls for recognition. A lively residence that takes in an indoor-outdoor living concept, the home’s central area was raised to create a whole new great room with radiant flooring. The home’s previous gabled roof was also transformed into a butterfly shape that brings in natural light and air, and opens the room more into the terrace and lawn. Aside from the great room, the home also features skylights and clerestory windows that enhance the relationship between the indoors and outdoors. With highly creative and aesthetically progressive bodies of work like this, Bestor Architecture manages to expand its territory of architecture into atmospheric urbanism.

The firm’s portfolio has also brought Bestor Architecture several honors which include the AIA’s National Design Award for Interior Architecture, the AIA LA Design Awards, and the AIA California Design Awards among several others.

TOLO Architecture

1024 Wilde St., Los Angeles, CA 90021

From art-based projects such as retail and restaurants to larger projects like hotels, multi-family housing, and single-family homes, TOLO Architecture’s diverse projects are not ones to be forgotten. Each project is not only beautiful but also intelligently and creatively takes note of the site’s cultural and historical context.

A great example of its work is the Sunglass house in the upper coasts at Malibu. A two-story residence dominated by glass and concrete, it is named after the reflective effect of sunglasses and features large and wide glass windows and walls that allow for panoramic ocean views while still reflecting the landscape back to the building’s exterior. This home has won awards such as the AIA’s 2013 Citation Award. The Sunglass house is not the only project that has brought the firm recognition. With a portfolio flooded by beautiful and innovative projects, TOLO Architecture has been recognized by publications like Domus, Dwell, and Architectural Record among many other publications. Alongside these features, the firm has been honored with awards like the AIA LA’s 2020 Residential Architecture Awards’ Honor Award and Architect Magazine’s 2019 award for a custom home more than 3,000 square feet wide.

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects

4106 West Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016

With 25 talented designers and offices in Los Angeles and Detroit, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) is a 26-year-old firm that has designed several beautiful modern homes for many discerning clients. Over time, it has built over 100 projects across three continents: small, medium, large, extra large. Among them art galleries, bus shelters, mixed-use developments, and urban plans.

Among its many projects, one of his most notable is House Noir in Malibu. Raised 30 feet above the shoreline, this home was designed to withstand time and the beach weather beating against it while still welcoming the outdoors. With its slightly trapezoidal form, the home provides rare views of the coast from the interiors of the house while angled balconies at the first and second levels enhance the harmony between the indoors and outdoors. Inside, there is also a central staircase made of punctured metal treads and risers that allows natural light to flow from the roof into the center of the house.

Currently, this firm is led by founder and design principal Lorcan O’Herlihy FAIA. With over 100 national and international design awards, O’Herlihy has been nominated to the Academy of Arts and Letters. Back in 2004, he was named one of the eight emerging voices in the U.S. according to the Architectural League of New York. More recently, his firm received the 2018 AIA California Distinguished Practice Award, the AIA Los Angeles Firm of the Year Award, and in 2018 was ranked #1 Design Firm in the US by Architect Magazine.


8609 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90232

May it be small or large-scale projects, SPF:a is a 32-year-old architecture firm that has won over 90 national and regional design awards. These have been given to beautiful projects that possess a modern and unconventional but beautiful design. The Taylor Beach House is a great example of the firm’s design practice at work. Originally designed in the 1970 by the famous modernist architect Jerrold E. Lomax, the entire home was designed to favor clean lines and an open floor plan that embraces the 50-feet of frontal beach views. Designed to allow in the maximum flow of light, the Taylor Beach House has a notable atrium that illuminates the middle of the house. To extend this openness, the home also has transparent walls and partitions. To give it a sense of delicacy and stability, the firm also installed a beautiful metal staircase with glass steps that extend from the first to the third floor.

Projects like the Taylor Beach House have earned SPF:a recognition from publications like LA Times, Architectural Digest, Wall Street Journal, and The Real Deal LA among several other publications. Alongside these features, the firm has won a number of awards including the 2020 Residential Design Architecture Honor Award for a contextual and vernacular renovation. In 2019, it also won the AIA LA residential Architecture Award and the 2017 California Preservation Foundation Design Award.

Montalba Architects

2525 Michigan Avenue Bldg. T4, Santa Monica, CA 90404

A multi-disciplinary firm established in 2004, Montalba Architects has produced select architecture and urban design-related projects. These can range from rural landscapes that harmonize with quiet Wyoming to the dense urban spaces of New York and Los Angeles. The Briarbluff residence in Malibu is one of the many diverse projects in its portfolio. Originally designed by historical architectural duo Buff and Hensman, this three-story residence’s extensive renovation transformed the once horizontal house into a more vertical structure. This transformation features a blend of unique stone and Brazilian walnut flooring, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, built-in walnut millwork, a water feature made of stone, and a unique aquarium room divider. Projects like these put emphasis on creating environments that are functional and beautiful.

With such projects, the firm has been featured in publications like Dwell, Elle Decor Italy, Architectural Record, and The Architect’s Newspaper. Alongside these features, the firm has won honors such as the 2020 WAN Awards’ Bronze award for House of The Year, the 2019 AIA California Residential Design Awards among many others.

David Hertz Architects / Studio of Environmental Architecture

57 Market St., Venice Beach, CA 90291

As its name implies, the Studio of Environmental Architecture is known for its expertise in regenerative design and sustainability in residential and commercial projects. Like so, the firm has its Resilience Lab where the team develops green technology and provides communities with planning services. One of its many notable projects is the 747 Wing House, a home that’s considered a triumph of regenerative design and represents the firm’s commitment to maximizing the longevity of the building and product.

Five thousand square feet wide, it reuses airplane components from Boeing to create artistic roof forms. While the main building uses only one wing and the tail stabilizers, the guest house is covered by the remaining wing. With steel brace frames, these wing-roofs appear to float, freeing the space enough to make the exterior walls appear as if they are frameless, self-supporting glass walls.

Burdge & Associates Architects

24911 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA 90265

From the modern to the classic, Burdge & Associates Architects is an architectural, planning, and design firm with a team of designers who are recognized for completing various architectural designs that have been recognized with several honors. Just some of these honors include recognition from publications like Forbes, Ocean Home, Luxe, and Western Art & Architecture among others. Several of the homes in its portfolio have been bought by both foreign and American celebrities like the Kardashians who frequent the Casa de Pietra. With its back guarded by mountains and its front entertained by spectacles of the ocean, this modern house made entirely of stone is a 3,000 square foot space perfect for intimate gatherings.

Aside from this wide floor plan, it has open features like wide glass windows and doors that blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, and an artistic spiral staircase set in the middle of the house. In 2017, Burdge & Associates Architects was named one of the Top 50 Coastal Architects and won the 2015 Golden Nugget Award from the PCBC.

Marmol Radziner

12210 Nebraska Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025

With an entire crew of architects, interior designers, contractors, and other artisans, Marmol Radziner is a design-build firm known for producing high-quality designs that are both innovative and utilize precise construction standards. Among its many modern and contemporary styled homes, its most notable one is the Cliffside residence in Malibu. A home that was designed, constructed and landscaped by the Marmol Radziner, it is a two-story residence that captures the Pacific Ocean and Point Dumes’ panoramic views. Aside from being supported by a steel structure, the home also utilizes large windows and glass doors that emphasize the home’s transparent design.

With projects like these, the firm has been featured in industry magazines like Architectural Record, Azure Magazine, Architecture & Design, and LA Times among many others. Compared to the magazine features, Marmol Radziner also has a collection of awards stretching from 1999 all the way to 2020. Some of these awards include the AIA California Council’s 2018 Distinguished Practice Award and AIA LA’s 2017 Design Award. It was even included in Architect’s 2018 Architect 50 list as the #1 Design firm in the U.S.

About Our Rankings

This list takes a range of ranking criteria into consideration, including but not limited to: work history, customer satisfaction, awards and recognition, geographic area of work, cost, building permits, and clientele. We spent over 40 hours researching local contractors before calculating the final ranking for this post. If there is additional information about your business that could affect these rankings, please fill out this form and we will take it into consideration.

Get Bids For Your Build

If you are thinking about building a custom home, we recommend checking each builder’s license with the local licensing board, speaking to past clients, and using our bidding system to get competitive quotes from at least 3 contractors. Getting multiple bids is the best way to ensure you get a fair price and that bids include the complete scope of work.