This 1924 Spanish-style home had been vacant for over 10 years in an exclusive area of Pasadena, California. The house had 870 square feet of floor space in a 5800 sq. ft. lot. The building contained two tiny bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, dining room and laundry room. As you can imagine the spaces were all very small. The back yard had a good size but was filled with overgrown bushes, weeds and mature trees. It had excellent potential but was in sore need of redesign and landscaping.
INITIAL PLANS & STRATEGY: The owner wanted to add a master suite and completely remodel the house as their primary residence for a few years, then sell it and move to a bigger house with the resulting profit. From a design standpoint the house design had to satisfy not only the current owner but the majority of the demographics this type of home. The project needed a creative approach to keep a comfortable balance of indoor living areas and outdoor recreation spaces. The ideal plan would connect both indoor and outdoor areas for a harmonious and healthy living environment.
RESEARCH, PLANNING & DESIGN: The first step of the project involved researching the specific zoning codes for the area, and determining the general expectations of potential buyers. I realized that there was just enough space on the left side of the house for a 7 foot addition, while still leaving enough room for the driveway. This plan would keep the back yard space completely intact. The challenge was to design the perfect layout of the master suite amenities in the additional area without feeling cramped. Detailed sketches were drawn up for the master suite and bathroom. The new bathroom space comfortably accommodates a standard size Jacuzzi™ tub, a nice size shower with frameless glass, an enclosed toilet and a large walk-in closet. The additional space also allowed us to slightly increase the size of the master bedroom.
LIVING ROOM/KITCHEN ALTERATIONS: I removed all the interior walls that were not load-bearing to open up the space, combining the living room and kitchen into a much more functional and spacious design. The kitchen was fitted with beautiful redwood cabinets and cupboards, and stainless steel appliances. A central preparation island was built with 3 stools for a quick breakfast nook or informal meal. French doors with large windows were placed in the back of the house next to the dining area and kitchen to connect the back yard with the kitchen and living room, bringing the outdoor view and light into the home.
BACK YARD & GARAGE RENNOVATIONS: Instead of a second garage (a surprising requirement of zoning codes) I added a carport with wood trellis that can easily be used as a covered patio. Unfortunately, the hardscape (paving or concrete) required for vehicle access would have taken away lots of space from the grass in the back yard. I needed an alternative material for a driveway that would satisfy the city inspectors while preserving the grassy areas. After a few hours of research I found a type of green mesh that can be installed over grass. Grass can grow through the mesh and it is designed to drive on. We wrote a letter to the city planning manager explaining how this alternative driveway will help increase green space and reduce water runoff. The city was more than happy to approve our design choices after reviewing the technical specifications. The exterior of the garage in the backyard was remodeled in a barn style that became the architectural feature of the backyard. The inside of the garage was remodeled into an art studio that opens up to a beautiful garden.
INTERIOR FINISHES were carefully selected to follow the style of the house while being in line with the latest architectural trends. I found it very charming to preserve and highlight some of the home's original materials and put them next to the contemporary finishes, creating an appealing contrast of old and new.
BIGGER ON THE INSIDE/CONNECTED TO THE OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENT: The new owners moved in in 2010 after 3 months of construction. The final square footage of the house was enlarged by 225 sq. ft. to 1095 sq. ft. but looks and feels much larger due to the open layout. The owners noted that there is not one square inch of wasted space in the house. It has an ample amount of storage space, excellent natural lighting, stunning outdoor views and comfortable living spaces that are very well connected to the back yard. The design creates an indoor/outdoor lifestyle that is perfect for California living.
RESALE RESULTS: The house was put in market in 2013. It had terrific response from buyers. The owners feel they have achieved all of their goals and every penny put into the redesign had an excellent return on their investment.
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