The hills of Hollywood, Calif., are home to some of the most creative, successful people in the world. One residence is home to one of the most creative and successful shade structures in the world, as well. Jim Miller of J. Miller Canvas Inc., Santa Ana, Calif., adapted his innovative commercial shade structure design for a residential property.
“The client wanted something modern looking, because their home has a very modern design. It is a beautiful house that overlooks the Hollywood Hills,” Miller says. “They didn’t want their yard to feel enclosed, so fabric was a natural choice because of its light transferring ability and aesthetic.”
The client and its architect created a vision for a contemporary shade structure that would provide sun protection, and support for heaters and lighting. It was imperative to the client that the structure had a minimal impact on the stunning view of the Los Angeles skyline in the distance. Miller’s solution was a free-standing shade structure with a cantilevered frame design crafted with mesh sunshade fabric, heaters and lights.
Soltis 86, manufactured by Serge Ferrari, was Miller’s fabric choice for the project. “It is an open mesh, and has a more refined look to it,” he says.
“It is a porous material, but can be used in horizontal applications. It worked well for this modern-looking installation, and there was no concern of trapping moisture. The fabric isn’t waterproof, so if the client had wanted it as a rain guard, it wouldn’t have worked.”
The unique horizontal design of the project is achieved with unconventional fabric architecture. The border of the fabric was sewn into a pocket that houses lengths of aluminum bar stock. Miller was then able to stretch the fabric into a tight rectangular subframe that is set into the main structural frame from above. “We pre-stretched the fabric around the aluminum trim subframe and screwed it onto the frame from above,” Miller says. “A cable wouldn’t give even stretch throughout the fabric. The bar allows even pull on the fabric and reduces the number of connecting points we need to use on it.” The solid aluminum bar is ⅛-inch thick by ½-inch wide, and the subframe was powder coated to match the color tone of the fabric.
Miller borrowed from other similar designs he has created for storefronts and commercial buildings to create the modern-looking and minimally-impactful structure. “With this design, we can create a large shade area without any midstructure, like a clearspan,” he says. “The fabric has seams running across it, but there is no framing going across.”
Heavy-gauge painted steel was used for the structure’s main frame. The frame was designed and constructed to hold the stretched-fabric subframe with as few obstructive elements as possible.
“There is an angle around each of the inside edges of the steel frame,” Miller says. “There is a 2-inch by 2-inch steel angle mounted inside. The awning fabric is stretched over a lighter-weight frame that is set into the angle. The angle hides any gaps there would be between the lightweight frame holding the fabric and the structural steel. It is almost like a picture frame.”
Miller used self-tapping screws to attach the subframe to the structural frame, and used simple manpower and a Genie® Lift™ to assemble the structure.
Electrical components posed an additional challenge. Wiring and mounting solutions for the heaters and lights needed to be accounted for. “We had to have areas for electrical to run through it,” Miller says, “and we had to do it in a way that gave the final project a nice finished look.
“The entire idea behind this design was to create free-standing flat panels versus the shed-type style of a traditional awning or canopy,” Miller says. “We do mostly commercial work that is developed with architects and engineers. Designing and installing this structure for a residential location gave it a unique and high level of affinity.”