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The Best Residential Architects and Designers in Santa Monica, California

15 Min Read

Sunny seas, palm trees, and urban residential properties encapsulate the beachfront city of Santa Monica. Its diverse collection of grandiose estates and suburban homes makes it a region fit for a variety of homeowners no matter the tax bracket. People looking to live in the city require a residential architect that meets and exceeds the golden standard, and this list assembles the top residential architects in the Santa Monica area for clients looking to find one. This carefully curated list was completed after thorough research of the area, considering factors such as each company’s history, construction quality, body of work, awards, accreditations, press features, and client reviews, among others.

This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.

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.


500 S Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105

Following the words of celebrated American architect Louis Kahn—“Architecture is the thoughtful making of space”—the architecture firm BiLDEN, which means “to form” or “to build” in German, carries its passion for “making” from design to build, streamlining the process, and saving clients money and time. Greg Crawford, BiLDEN’s founder and principal architect, draws upon the fundamental tenets of light, space, planning, design and detailing to create homes with clear, elegant lines in both composition and form. Underpinning all of this is a commitment by Greg and his team to incorporate environmentally responsible materials and methods, energy conservation, and an appropriate use of technology.

Stunning projects by BiLDEN have been featured in publications such as Luxe Magazine, California Home and Design, and LA Architect Magazine. The firm holds membership in different associations including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), NAHB Remodelers, the American Institute of Building Design, and the American Institute of Architects.

Bittoni Architects

2128 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Artistry and social expression are two of the key components of Bittoni Architects’ business model. Established in 2013, the firm has slowly expanded its operations, extending its architecture scope to reach three continents. The full-service architecture firm offers a wide range of services, from planning blueprints to the furnishing stage. The firm also implements handling of the budget, construction, and building codes, covering all the bases when it comes to a structure’s construction. The company takes pride in its proactive approach to projects, offering innovative solutions to resolve any issues that may arise.

Firm principal Mark Bittoni has more than a decade of experience in the architecture industry. His resume includes an AIA Scholastic Award and hundreds of designed homes and businesses. Bittoni Architects’ catalog includes multifamily, commercial retail, offices, and workplaces and private residences. The firm’s gorgeous work has been featured in publications such as Urbanize LA, Los Angeles Magazine, Monocle, and Domino Magazine.

Equinox Architecture Inc.

10748 Flaxton St., Culver City, CA 90230

Strong contemporary architecture is the forte of Equinox Architecture Inc. The Culver City-based firm is owned by James Gelfat, who brings three decades of industry experience to the table. Gelfat has extensive knowledge in design, project management, and coordination, and once served as an associate member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association.

Equinox Architecture is an award-winning name, with accolades such as an AIA Achievement Award, the Kurt Meyer Architectural Achievement Award, and Morris and Marian J. Kaplan Architectural Achievement Award. Its work has also graced the pages of Qualified Remodeler Magazine, Architectural Record, and The Architecture Review, with one project featured in the 15th season of America’s Next Top Model. Pictured here is the Abbot Kinney Lofts, which showcases the firm’s strong modern work. The project won a Residential Architect Design Award.

FoxLin Architects

392 Camino de Estrella, San Clemente, CA 92672

One goal drives FoxLin Architects forward—to turn each client’s visions to reality. Juintow Lin and Michael Fox laid out the seminal groundwork for the firm’s extensive portfolio, flaunting a stunning catalog of projects containing styles ranging from rustic residential estates to magnificent modern mansions. Both principals have influences from London, New York, and all around the globe. These are translated well into their architectural structures, as evident in their versatile design styles. The firm’s work scope includes the greater Los Angeles area and reaches as far as China and Israel.

The firm observes a strong commitment to bringing each client’s vision to life, creating design plans with artistic flair and vigor. This is one of the reasons why its design and service components are praised amongst client community sites. It is important to the firm that clients and builders to collaborate seamlessly on every project. The small scale of the company lets it focus the creative energy solely on the project it’s working on, channeling optimal design ideas and delivering maximum effort into each project.

One of the top accolades the firm has received was an AIA LA Honor Award earned by its Bubbles Installation. The AIA Orange Chapter Citation Award was awarded to the firm in 2015, with FoxLin winning both in Commercial and Residential categories. FoxLin Architects has been featured in design magazines such as California Home + Design, Flaunt Magazine, LA Architect, Architectural Record, and Modern Luxury, among others.

Hamilton Architects

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

John P. Hamilton founded Hamilton Architects with a client- and project-based approach to construction and design. The esteemed architect’s history of work developed his commercial and residential design skills, proving instrumental when he established his own firm. As his venture grew, his portfolio expanded as well with numerous projects from different markets, including custom homes, development projects, commercial improvements, and retail design, as well as restaurant and production homes.

Accredited by the AIA California LA and Long Beach/South Bay, Hamilton Architects is a licensed architect in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Washington states. It holds certifications from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and a US Green Building Council (USGBC). The property featured is the El Segundo Modern, a residential project with natural elements blended into its contemporary design. Its sharp edges and asymmetrical aesthetic evoke an artistic touch that echoes a modern, almost futuristic flair. Work such as this is one of the reasons why the firm has been showcased in various publications such as Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, and the NY Times.

Hsu McCullough

2934 1/2 Beverly Glen Circle, Unit #378, Los Angeles, CA 90077

Peggy Hsu and Chris McCullough combined their architectural mastery, design knowledge, and building expertise to establish Hsu McCullough, a full-service firm that excels in all things residential architecture-related. Smooth communication channels allow clients to openly give their input during the building and design process. Interior and exterior design are expertly handled by the duo, building architectural structures that truly reflect a homeowner’s lifestyle and brought to life thanks to the principals’ creative eye. Whether it’s traditional or contemporary styles, Hsu McCullough is able to deliver not only in visual value but also in the overall stability of a project.

The AIA-accredited company thrives on collaboration. Its process promotes camaraderie between architect and client. It is for this reason that Hsu McCullough proved to be a favorite among homeowner community sites, with former clients citing its design and service aspects as the firm’s strongest suits. Clean, modern aesthetics are evident in the firm’s work, with minimalist influences prominent in its residential catalog. Some of the firm’s exceptional projects have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Dwell Magazine, and Dwell On Design.

Lewin Wertheimer of Lewin Wertheimer Architects

115 Wavecrest Avenue, Venice, CA 90291

More than 25 years of field experience has honed Lewin Wertheimer in his craft, and today the firm is actively building homes not only in Southern California but all over the globe. A meticulous approach to architecture and style versatility proves to be Wertheimer’s forte, working with a talented crew of craftspeople that excel in new construction, restoration, and remodeling. Outstanding project management and excellent collaboration are also two of the reasons why Lewin is a favorite among third-party client communities and a reason for many long-standing client relationships.

The firm’s projects have been featured in Architectural Digest, Classic Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Coastal Living, Luxe Interiors + Design, and Ocean Home Magazine. Among the home styles in the firm’s portfolio are majestic Cape Cod structures, Colonial mansions, and Craftsman homes. The featured house is a Manhattan Beach Cottage. The two-story estate displays cool, clean palette made up of pure white hues and milky pastel blues. The home’s quaint Americana aesthetic boasts a lovely design fit for a single-family household.

MGS Architecture

4006 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066

Magdalena Glen-Schieneman stems from a family of European architects with extensive knowledge of modern West Coast architecture and an inclination towards the classic and contemporary styles. A master of combining style, function, and comfort sum up the business model established by her firm, MGS Architecture. Its core values revolve around five factors: accessibility, desirability, profundity, permanence, and tactile inquisitiveness. The implementation of the said criteria resulted in numerous satisfied homeowners over the years and by extension building a positive reputation for the firm’s brand.

MGS Architecture has been featured in Luxe Interiors + Design, Modern House Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times. The pictured Hollywood Canyon Residence is a lavish build completed by MGS Architecture. The modish home is perfect for homeowners with a high-class lifestyle, a staple of Hollywood living. The interior contains multiple bedrooms and kitchen, dining, and living rooms. Outside, the home has a pool, deck, and other exterior amenities. Its luxurious appeal is not only for show—it was built with function in mind thanks to green aspects such as solar panels and sustainably harvested timber.

Paul Brant Williger, Architect

110 N Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Paul Brant Williger has thrived in the world of architecture thanks to his innate talent, unbridled passion, and strong dedication to the industry. He carries more than three decades of experience in his arsenal, drawing on years of exposure to custom residential architecture work. He was recently given a Historic Preservation Award  from the Santa Monica Conservancy for the Preservation and Restoration of the Robert Farquhar Residence on Georgia Avenue. He has alsorecently completed the restoration and remodel of a 1933 John Beyers House, also on Georgina  Avenue. Typical projects completed by the firm range between $2.5 million to $5 million. Williger’s residential work can be found in Woodside, Laguna Beach, and Beverly Hills, as well as Los Angeles, Montecito, and Malibu. The firm is eyeing Texas, Montana, and Shanghai for future expansions.

Press features in Luxe Interiors + Design, California Homes, Architectural Digest, and The Luxury of Home Magazine. Features in these magazines highlight the aesthetic value and structural style prowess of the firm. One such showcase of the Malibu Residence completed by Paul Brant Williger shone a light on the majestic beauty of the residence, filtering its regal identity from the home’s design of modern and traditional interiors.

Rees Studio Architecture

2605 17th St., Santa Monica, CA 90405

This full-service architecture company shines when it comes to building upscale residential projects. Firm principal Bobby Rees specializes in creating designs that prove timeless in their beauty and functionality. His experience as a project designer, associate, and manager has made him a well-rounded builder. He is a LEED Accredited Professional with certification from the AIA. Not only does the firm build structures from a macro perspective, but it also makes sure that consistent focus on the minute details is strictly observed.

The firm’s portfolio displays stylistic versatility, with a number of homes displaying modern geometric styles and glam transitional elements. Sustainable design is implemented by Rees Studio, which adds green building aspects into its process, from material selection to until project completion. Energy efficiency and environmental sensitivity take into account not only a home’s visual value, but also the construct’s effect on its surroundings.

Richard Manion Architecture Inc.

11400 W Olympic Blvd. Suite #410, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Meticulous workmanship, superior service, and historical accuracy—these values build up the core of Richard Manion Architecture. Richard Manion’s expertise lies in building and renovating homes with a trademark style bordering on the traditional and streamlined classical. Its restorations embrace the past by enhancing each estate to keep up with modern standards while still keeping the essence of the home.

Accreditations held by the firm include the AIA LA chapter and the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Its list of awards include accolades from the Los Angeles Home Book Design Excellence Award and the American Society of Architectural Perspectivists. Press features by the firm include appearances in Architectural Digest, California Homes Magazine, Luxe Interiors + Design, and Forbes Magazine.

A wide spectrum of home styles is present in Richard Manion’s portfolio, including classical, Mediterranean, regional, and streamlined homes. The featured Holmby House in the Holmby Hills is a mansion oozing minimalist majesty. The purely white color palette both on the interiors and exteriors give it a classic design uniformity, a stylistic choice that elevates it from simple to luxurious.

SUBU Design Architecture

15243 La Cruz Dr. Unit #908, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Spearheaded by May Sung, SUBU Design Architecture is, as its name implies, an architecture and interior design firm. Sung is an AIA-accredited architect with robust proficiency in custom residential homes and boutique hotels. Her work has taken her internationally, gaining extensive knowledge and influences from all over the globe. The firm tailors every residential home to its owner, building homes that parallel a client’s lifestyle while respecting the input given and integrating it to the structure. Third-party domains of homeowner communities have commended the firm’s quality of design and customer service.

SUBU Design Architecture is a major proponent of environmentally efficient building, holding accreditations from green associations such as the LEED, NCARB, and Fullbright Solar. May Sung and the firm have been featured in Open House, a local program that highlights aesthetically interesting homes. Among the printed publications that have featured the firm are The Hollywood Reporter, Luxe Interiors + Design, Luxury Magazine, California Homes, and Southbay Home Magazine.

Tracy A. Stone Architect

2041 Blake Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039

Tracy A. Stone leads her eponymous firm Tracy A. Stone Architect, which excels in building and designing custom homes that fit the respective homeowner’s vision. Green building is big in the architect’s process, as Stone is an NAHB and LEED Accredited Professional and a member of the USGBC. Former clientele recommend Tracy and her talented team of craftspeople for their architectural prowess and creative design. The firm uses the program ArchiCAD to create a 3D model of the structure being built, a simulacrum that polishes any hitches that may occur to ensure that the process goes accurately and smoothly.

Photo by Simon Berlyn

To date, the firm has completed more than 154 projects and counting, and its work has won both awards and press recognition. Its list of accolades includes awards from the NKBA and the AIA, the 2019 Impact Maker to Watch, the 28th Congressional District Woman of the Year, and the LA Conservancy President’s Award.

The two-story property featured is the Lucerne Residence, a Los Angeles project completed by the firm. The exterior’s synthesis of wood, concrete, and metal forms an unorthodox and asymmetrical design, its facade flaunting a contemporary design. The strategic prominence of glass windows allows natural sunlight in, avoiding a drab aesthetic and embracing a riveting and trendy design. The project’s beautiful modern design was the product of the architectural team of Tracy Stone, MacKenzie Leifeste, and Blaise Fremont. The house has Niaki and Associates, Inc. to thank for their engineering work and A Good Home, LLC as their developer/contractor.

Trelease Architecture Design

1525 S Sepulveda Blvd. Suite K, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Trelease Architecture Design is a firm led by Anne Trelease, an architect with a strong eye for design and the high profile credentials to utilize her style. Trelease is a LEED Accredited Professional with a rich portfolio that demonstrates her strong work management and large scale project production. The firm’s catalog of projects displays a wide variety of designs that prove Trelease’s versatility in visual aesthetics. The firm offers architectural services for residential, commercial facilities, tenant improvements, and educational facilities. Aside from building establishments, the firm has also done work for the Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet, as well as designing the Cartesian Scarf, an original clothing piece flaunting a unique design that’s equally stylish and functional.

Trelease Architecture has received a number of accolades, including the LAUSD Program Recognition and the Industry Awards DESIGN Award. It has been featured in publications such as the Los Angeles Times and FORM Pioneering Design. The two-story Los Angeles Tuscan home pictured boasts beautiful arched doorway and handcrafted double doors. Its red roof tiles and pure white exteriors mirror traditional American homes.

W3 Architects

1337 Palms Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

A keen focus on sustainable building coupled with exquisite contemporary design propels W3 Architects to the top of Santa Monica’s best residential architects. Principal Warren Wolff Wagner is an AIA-accredited architect and a member of the USGBC and the American Solar Energy Society. In this small firm, Warren has worked closely with partner Deva Berg for the last 19 years. His firm implements solar and environmentally-efficient technology in its projects, boosting structure quality not only aesthetically but also in sustainable functionality. Cutting-edge style and innovative design have made the firm a favorite among publications, gaining features in the likes of LA Architect and Elle Decoration Germany.

W3 was awarded the Excellence in Design from the 43rd Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards. It has also received several AIA LA Design Awards and accolades from the Solar Energy Society and the Living Building Institute. The firm works on residential and commercial projects, with a body of work that spans more than 25 years. Projects worked on by the firm cost between $300,000 to $3 million.

How can I find a contractor or home builder near me?

Read our latest articles on the best residential contractors and home builders in and near Santa Monica. If you don’t see your city or project type below, just let us know – we are happy to create a tailored recommendation list just for you.

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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.


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at Home Builder Digest with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at Home Builder Digest, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration