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Privacy on a busy street.

Remodeling projects can be as complex--and as expensive--as building an entire new house, but sometimes the best strategies pivot on the simplest additions. Two French doors, a deck, a trellis, and a fence are all that were added to Cynthia Thompson and Ray Jessel's bungalow in Studio City, California, but they make a world of difference.

The challenge was to create a spacious, flat outdoor living area on a cramped, sloping lot. Since the steep hill behind the house limited the patio space available there, the only viable site was the yard at the front of the house, which overlooked a busy street. The remodel seen here transformed the open front yard into a private garden and, in the process, created a gracious entryway. Replacing the street-facing windows with French doors opened the house to the new garden with few structural changes.


Stepping outside onto the deck is like walking into a room with no ceiling. The new fence serves as an outside wall to this open-air space, which is furnished with tables, chairs, a broad umbrella, a low seating wall of stacked pieces of broken concrete, and assorted container plants.

The key to the design is the fence, which is covered with the same lapped redwood siding used on the house exterior. The fence not only creates a seamless look that blends the new and old, but also presents a uniform facade to the busy street. Both the fence and deck have been stained a soft gray to match the house.

The L-shaped deck, surfaced with 2-by-4s on edge, extends from the house at the same level as the interior floor. Close to the house, the deck jogs around several existing podocarpus, and along the outside edge it runs into the low concrete wall and steps out into the garden.

The courtyard can be entered from the living room as well as from a gate next to the front entry area. Although the front door has not changed location, it is now screened by a small trellis and a sycamore tree near a deck at the head of stairs leading from the driveway.


The house overlooks the street from a terraced, elevated site that slopes downhill from the driveway end. On the street side of the fence, a bank falls steeply down to sidewalk level. This area is densely planted with trees and drought-tolerant shrubs to make the fence less fortresslike and more pleasant to passersby. Despite its closeness to the street, the house seems to disappear behind layers of plants, rockwork, fencing, and trellis.

The shape and slope of the lot forces the driveway to double as the main access to the house. Guests still must approach the house by walking up the driveway, but new entry steps were added, and the texture of the drive was subtly changed with natural materials--stone and plants--that spill from the streetfacing bank. As the top photograph shows, the plain gray surface of the driveway was interrupted along one edge by a meandering stone path to create a visual break.

Although the driveway's curving edge lies flush with the path of Bouquet Canyon stone, the hard surfaces are broken by pockets of red- and pink-flowering thyme. The plants visually soften the surface, giving the path a natural patina.

Rocks also flank the stairs that lead to the entry deck. Along the driveway, granite boulders serve as a low retaining wall, while at the edge of the street, a pile of boulders disguises the mailbox.

The exterior remodel, which pleasantly blends architecture and landscape design, is by Nick Williams & Associates, Tarzana, California.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Whiteley, Peter O.
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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