Craig Ellwood would be proud. His 1965 house in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles stands sympathetically renovated, seemingly undisturbed yet updated to the max. Brett Woods and Joseph Dangaran were the ideal candidates for the commission. USC architecture grads whose namesake studio has grown from four to 13 in the six years since Interior Design first paid a visit, they are “passionate about restoring architecturally significant homes,” says the latter. “We’re modernists at heart.” And from Woods: “Our work has been informed by Ellwood,” among others of the mid-century era. In fact, modern residences, either ground-up or renovations, constitute the entirety of their practice, at least so far. Credit, too, goes to the owners—he an app designer, she a photographer—for their determination to do the right thing.
At just 1,700 square feet, the house is the antidote to the McMansion scourge. Indeed, it has everything the married couple needs to live comfortably: a main suite, guest bedroom and bath, office, living-dining-kitchen expanse, and plenty of outdoor space. While it had been lightly renovated by previous owners, the architects found it “a bit run down,” notes Woods, and in need of complete modernization vis-à-vis systems, waterproofing, and finishing. So, they took the redwood structured down to the studs—fasciae were removed and catalogued for re-installation; a deep red stain also was sanded down and removed. Meanwhile, they respected original fenestration and sliders, adding, however, new glazing within anodized aluminum framing that transitions inside to painted black wood as a pervasive detail.
Otherwise, the major architectural effort entailed a 60-foot lap pool. It runs along the front of the hillside house and compliments the existing koi pond, considered so integral to the site that its being maintained was a condition of escrow. New, too, is the cast-in-place concrete deck with custom firepit.
The interior is of a consistent and harmonious piece, intent upon “reducing visual noise,” according to Dangaran. It looks super simple, but we can imagine the underlying complexity. Finishes were totally upgraded: Burmese teak for flooring and cabinetry; textured plaster for the ceiling. “There’s not a piece of drywall in the house,” Woods adds.
As for cabinetry, it articulates Ellwood’s original function areas in the form of partitions. They rise full height yet, true to the Ellwood canon, remain clear of perimeter walls. The piece at one end of the living room, furnished with Umberto Asnago’s Arflex sofa, Paolo Piva’s B&B Italia coffee table, Philippe Malouin’s armchairs for SCP, and the architects’ custom stone tables, incorporates a matte brass firebox and perfect niche for the owner’s vinyl collection and lust-worthy player from Floating Record. Beyond, is the main suite. Meanwhile, its facing counterpart, behind a white oak dining table overlooked by Florian Schulz brass pendants, sets up the galley kitchen with its backwall of glazed porcelain tile, behind which are guest quarters and office.
While public areas mix custom and manufactured elements, the main bedroom is all finely tuned cabinetry. Yacht-like, it incorporates a storage wall, floating console, and bedside tables. So detailed is the leather headboard that its tufting corresponds to lines of the teak wall panels.
In the principal bath, below a newly configured skylight, bursts of color supplant supreme subtlety. The photographer wanted Verde Borgogna marble. She got it, offset by metallic bronze tile from Ann Sacks. The guest bath, however returns to subdued neutrals with Japanese porcelain tile and honed Dark Emerador marble lit up by vintage Frank Ligtelijn globes.
While the house presents a seamless melding of 21st-century intervention with mid-century heritage, the site’s four massive olive trees hark undeniably to the past—they’re irreplaceable.