From its fantastical, carnival-driven beginning at the turn of the last century, to mid-century’s “Slum by the Sea,” gang drug wars of the 1990s and the westside boom of the last twenty years, Venice’s fortunes have risen, fallen, and risen again. For over fifty years, this Los Angeles neighborhood has been home to one of the most diverse and influential creative classes in the U.S., a rollcall of artists crucial to the development of high and low culture in Post-War America. In recent years, its rebirth and gentrification have threatened the very diversity that has long defined and energized it. The city and state have sought to ameliorate the narrowing effects of this gentrification through innovative planning and housing policies. Both client and team aimed for a renovated project that might embody and testify to the application of those policies, in its incorporation of a Replacement Affordable Dwelling Unit on site.
The existing Abbot Kinney-worthy whimsical two-story ‘English Cottage’ built in 1928, retained architectural features of the charming residential character of the neighborhood established almost 100 years ago. Our project aimed to strengthen those roots, returning the existing multi-unit dwelling to its original single-family use in removing subsequent poor quality, discordant additions, and in sensitively renovating the interior and exterior to the building’s original scale and charm.
A mature and long-protected Eugenia hedgerow conceals the site. It is a welcome baffle to the energy of a busy collector street in the neighborhood. A stone tile walk leads from an arched wood gate to the arched entry porch at main house, winding through a romantic west side yard to the rear garden, opening onto a patio and fountain that fronts a broad-stepped deck connecting the renovated kitchen and dining room with the garden and new second dwelling perched atop a two-car garage.
Both buildings are rendered in sun drenched white stucco, with richly painted wood doors and trim, and light terracotta-colored tile roofing. Dramatic roof planes and shed dormers cap robust, simple wall geometries. Exposed rafter tails and tin gutters scale roof overhangs. Casement windows frame views of the wild garden and neighborhood beyond, catching breezes from any direction. Both building interiors are engineered to link each space with abundant light, air, and circulation.
The seemingly secret and well-protected garden is lushly landscaped. New and existing ornamental plants and large shrubs are framed by a remarkable collection of mature greenery and fruit trees that includes Kumquat, Cherry, Lemon, Grapefruit, and Apricot. The net effect is that of an oasis in the city.