Today, Los Angeles remains an exciting laboratory of design ideas and strategies, offering lessons for anyone contemplating a remodel or building a new house. The innovative spirit continues even as it is challenged by the high cost of real estate, especially in western sections of Los Angeles.
Here, homeowners, and architects are showing a knack for creative compromise as they build and remodel. Their pragmatic, problem-solving designs make the most of small spaces, tight lots, and difficult sites without sacrificing outdoor living or privacy. Both new and remodeled houses pack a variety of spatial surprises within minimal square-footages.
Above, you can glimpse four of the eight houses we show on the next 10 pages. The consistent thread is drama. No single style has emerged--but that seems proper for a city composed of so many images.
Small House opens up with bright gallery
Add a floor while keeping interiors open and light--this second-story addition to a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot house in Mar Vista met the challenge.
The extra 1,500 square feet (three bedrooms, two baths) is organized around a two-story, 5- by 36-foot gallery running from the front door to the back of the house. A ridge skylight extends the length of the gallery, bringing daylight into both floors. A balcony leading to the bedrooms rings the open space upstairs.
Supporting the gallery are 4-by-4 posts. To stress the 16-foot height of the hall, the architects created a tapering effect by wrapping the lower posts with built-up columns of wire mesh covered with plaster. Upper posts are exposed.
The gallery helps define spaces on the ground floor without shutting them in. There, only a bedroom and bath are enclosed. The architects incorporated the two other original bedrooms into a single living-dining-kitchen area.
Roof decks on the front of the house provide outdoor space off the upstairs bedrooms. To express the house-building process in a graphic way, the architects treated the railings as if they were unfinished, recalling unplastered lath. Design: Santa Monica architects James G. Stafford and Rebecca L. BindeR.
A tight-budget tower house
Like a modern dollhouse or perhaps even Rapunzel's tower, this tiny 795-square-foot house turns smallness into a theatrical event. "A very tight budget, and the client's fond recollections of carriage houses and old garages, suggested making a simply framed structure with living spaces behind a pierced wall," recalls one of its architects.
Built for artist-printer Susan King, the house consists of a single volume rising to two stories at a corner tower and divided by an angled stairway. The stair leads up to a built-in desk-landing, then to a reading-sleeping loft in the tower.
Both loft and landing overlook a printing studio on one side through the "pierced wall" and the kitchen-sitting area on the other. Only the combination bathroom-drakroom is fully enclosed.
Two big, old-fashioned carriage house doors open the skylit studio, making installation of heavy printing equipment relatively easy.
Under the tower, the corner front door leads past the stairway to the compact kitchen. There, curved seating--recalling a booth in a 1930s diner--saves floor space. The stairway provides a crescent of bleacher seating. Design: Santa Monica architects Buzz Yudell and John Ruble of Moore, Ruble, Yudell.
Two-bedroom bungalow grows long, lean, tall
A long, narrow, two-story extension at the back of this two-bedroom Santa Monica bungalow gives Pat and Jack Lasater needed space for their growing family without loss of much precious outdoor living area. It's also practically invisible from the street, in a neighborhood of low-slung bungalows from the 1920s and '30s.
With a family room below and a master bedroom suite above, the 650-square-foot addition projects 23 feet beyond the rear of the house, displacing part of a very generous house-wide deck.
The Lasaters wanted to preserve as much of this deck as possible, so the addition was restricted to 12 feet in width. Tied in with the house, it forms an L around the deck. A 4- by 5-foot pop-out at the junction of the L makes room for doors between the deck and new family room.
Upstairs, the wing is slightly larger, with a walk-in closet and bathroom occupying a double-gabled section that projects 4 feet over the deck. This projection also serves as a kind of canopy over the doors to the family room.
From the bedroom, French doors open onto an elegantly curved balcony with a view west across rooftops to the ocean. Supported by 6-by6 posts, the balcony shelters a deck-level sitting area where the Lasaters enjoy outdoor meals.
To open up the part of the house facing the reduced deck, the architects removed a section of a wall between the kitchen and what had been used as the dining room, turning that space into a breakfast area. With the new family room complete, the square room between kitchen and deck--before used as a family room--now serves as a full-fledged dining room.
Design was by architects Wade Killefer and Janet Spinks of Carde/Killefer, Santa Monica.
Daylight, privacy, touch of drama
Neighbors crowd three sides of this 32- by 90-foot house in Manhattan Beach, putting privacy at a premium and offering little hope for views on the corridor-like lot. But Susan and Brian Hoose wanted their new house to have light, privacy, and a touch of drama.
Redondo Beach architect Dan Mello sculpted the structure to answer all three wants. Where it faces its neighbors (two-story houses surround three sides), the house presents a fairly blank facade. But Mello sliced away at the high corners, fitting them with sinuous ribbons and grids of glass. These corner windows flood the interior with light and skirt straight-on views of the neighbors; only a passing hang glider could see inside.
Banks of glass block are another way of introducing light while maintaining privacy. In the stairwell (shown above right), all three glazing elements come together just inside the front entry; here the textural blocks become the art on the walls.
Mello put the master bedroom, kitchen, and living and dining rooms upstairs. Other bedrooms and a large tV and entertainment area are below. Upstairs from the living room, a glass door opens to an elevated deck, protected by the house on three sides. Off the entertainment room, a shady patio nestles in near secrecy.
A red-and-black color scheme for window frames, stair and deck railings, and other trim unifies the house.
Pink stucco box, three stories tall, 44 feet square
It was the kind of lot where, beyond the "For Sale" sign, you could see only thin air, a lot where "unbuildable" equaled "affordable." Los Angeles architect Stephen Slan, of VIA, became involved even before photographer Karen Filter made her down payment. She had to know if she was buying a home site--or what famous San Francisco architect Bernard Maybeck once termed a "goat lot," better left to wild goats.
A tight budget, seasonal fire danger, and the owner's need for a large studio were other constraints. On a grid of nine pilings, linked with concrete grade beams, Slan designed a pulled-together pink stucco box, 44 feet square, three stories tall. Its monolithic look (page 95) comes from fire-code requirements to enclose foundations from grade to floor level.
At street level, Slan recessed a central entry between the garage and an angled wall enclosing master bedroom and bath. The entry hall bisects the top level, leading to stairs (far right) that drop to the two-story-tall living room. This room is open to a deck on one side, to the kitchen-dining area on the other; a third side overlooks the studio below. A bedroom and bath complete the middle level.
To build the 2,500-square-foot house for $48 a square foot in 1985, Slan used off-the-Shelf windows and doors, and particleboard kitchen cabinetry finished with a textured gray spray paint (zolotone).
On a "too-steep" lot, three flexible pavilions
Steeper than neighboring sites, this Pacific Palisades property remained vacant for 40 years after tract houses stairstepped up and down adjacent lots. For the reward of an ocean view, architect Melinda Payne took up the site's challenge.
From a level streetside strip, the land drops steeply. To control foundation costs, Payne rooted her house on level ground. A lineup of elegantly simple gable-roofed boxes faces the street, each one a "house" the way a child might draw it.
Masterful flexibility shines through in the floor plan. The central of three main units measures 18 by 32 feet; it shelters the public living space--an undivided living-dining room, with a cooktop counter defining the open kitchen (shown at right). At the opposite end of the room, a wall of French doors opens to a stretch of deck.
To one side, a second pavilion houses a two-car garage that backs up to a balconied room with bath; a private entry suggests this room as a home office or guest quarters. Upstairs are the wood-ceilinged master bedroom with ocean-view balcony and skylit window seat (see cover photograph), the master bath, and a closet dressing area.
The third and smallest unit (only 15 by 17 feet) opens off the other side of the living pavilion; it has a loft, bath, and outside entry. This space can work as an informal two-story family room, a home office, or private living quarters.
Throughout the house, Payne recycled many doors and windows removed from various reconstruction projects.
All they saved was the foundation
With two small bedrooms and only 940 square feet, Judy and Michael Ornstein's house was just too small. It also needed an extensive overhaul. The couple didn't want to leave their Venice neighborhood, and trading up to a bigger house elsewhere was beyond their means. But being both resourceful and brave, they decided simply to start over, using the original 28- by 34-foot foundation.
Santa Monica archtects Harriet Hatch and Luis Coluasuonno conceived of the house as an extruded box with an attached shed. They divided the structure into public and private area, building partial walls laced with exposed steel beams through the center of the house to separate living and sleeping quarters. A central stairway leads to a roof deck.
Beneath the shed roof, a single vertical volume contains the living room and kitchen. It rises the full height of the house, forming a dramatic wedge of space. A small dining room projects into the back garden. Two enclosed children's bedrooms complete the ground floor. The master bedroom and a study occupy the floor above, overlooking living room and kitchen.
At one end of the living area, daylight floods through a tall, tapering wall of glass block, further accentuating the roomhs shape and height.
Clerestory windows along the monitor combine with skylights to knit the house together with light.
Greenhouse works on three levels
Substandard even by Venice terms, the plot tackled by architect Milica Dedijer measures only 30 by 60 feet.
Working with this minimal lot in a none-too-scenic neighborhood, she shaped a home that protectively enfolds bedrooms and baths with sparsely windowed walls and turns a bright countenance of living areas toward sky, sun, and beyond-the-neighbor views.
The 1,600-square-foot house hunkers into its site with a garage, two children's bedrooms, and a bath all at ground level. A short flight up are entry, master bedroom, and bath. A few steps higher and you're in the "courtyard"--the tall dining area, open to the kitchen and the triangular greenhouse, overlooked by a cozy living room and an office-study.
These core rooms are oriented diagonally on an axis that forms the base of the greenhouse triangle. The diagonal orientation lengthens views across the interior, resulting in a more spacious feeling than if rooms had been set square to the site.
By facing the greenhouse true south, Dedijer planned for solar space- and water-heating, with rock storage beneath the house and supply-return ducts at greenhouse corners. Windows and doors in the greenhouse open to vent excess heat when the sliding doors are opened. The free-flowing plan allows effective crossventilation, taking advantage of L.A.'s great natural asset--the gentle breezes off the Pacific Ocean.
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|Title Annotation:||new house and remodeling ideas|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1986|
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