Los Angeles designer Julie Hart renovates an iconic Craig Ellwood/Jerry Lomax modest beach house in Malibu. It has been snapshooted and reviewed by yours truly.
My Beautiful Day in Malibu
Julie Hart is my American Friend. She is cool, talented and I love being her friend. She also happened to finish a remodel / restore project in Malibu Road, a Craig Ellwood built love shack on the sand...
You might say remodel Ellwood? Let me tell you, conditions are harsh on the sand and Ellwoods are paper thin. So, this genre of modern residential gems, that are iconic to Los Angeles architecture and now to the world, are hard to maintain. Sand moves, steel rusts, aluminum decays, bolts loosen up and owner changes, not necessarily deed wise but need wise and it is salty all the time...
If you are not taken care of on Malibu Beach, you are one storm away from the revised site maps. A useful empty lot at best.
As if that's not enough, iconic love child must survive the maximum minded neighbors, 'the lights, camera, action' world's upper crust.
The beach cabin/summer house (aka First Pierson House) is based around three part volume/unit separated by air, a bridge connects everything. It maintains its pre-fab / easy construction formula which Ellwood and Lomax worked in and around 1953-54 when the house was built. When you look at this building, really, you get to say to all current prefab intelligentsia;
"What about this?"
Before we go in, I ask Julie to pull up to Ralphs grocery store to make my medication activated by a cup of coffee. On the back road, Julie points out to not so nicely remodeled twin of her project about couple hundred yards before (aka Casa Smith). She parks in front of her project and walks me to secret public access stairs to the beach which is more important for me to know. So, I forgo my childhood fantasy of entering an Ellwood House from the street, for an excellent beach access tip from my buddy JH.
But this detour is even better because I see the house and the neighborhood first from the 'beach', the real reason for this colony to exist.
The house is sitting on a 'pier'.
It certainly not that beautiful white I beams carrying the load over the manicured grass and river rocks, but cross braced stilts that are driven deep below the sand and coated with emulsion. The master of economy in construction is flexible when necessary.
That zero to hero Ellwood. He is the first handsome rock star of architecture who build a prolific career as a branding / marketing genius out of dusty Texas but might as well be out of blue... Empty lots to build on them were more beautiful then and standard was in.
For me, if there is a Fountainhead then Ellwood is the Fountainlad.
We go up the new green lumber stairs and arrive to the trex planked deck.
I meet the contractress who is waiting for the inspector to get the final sign off and she is not nervous. Good job, beautiful face with a space between front teeth...
The simple plan leaving no guess work on the visitors mind, and magically the house turns into a real manageable beach property that is functional, useful, relatively easy construction with almost numbered parts.
Julie restrains herself doing anything wrong with it, and later throws in, some better than before design nuances, first by removing the existing claustrophobia created by the unreasonably added bedroom and half bath. She organizes the space that would make Ellwood and Lomax say "thank you Jules". She adds two colors in two places; one is a blue wall in the bedroom and a pink entrance door. Girls' thing like...
It is easy to spot the beautiful detailing by the original designers/ builders. Obviously great sensitivity was required for replacing the old parts that are now manufactured differently and better. I like the way it (job) was done, not as a nostalgic engagement, but more so, fix it intelligently, without fattening the paper thin original economy.
House looks robust, fixed, stands crisp, and stands alone, even when flanked by the neighbors who have different ambitions in life. Great house for kids. And the bridge goes over Malibu's smallest residential park.
Julie is worried about a big couch that was placed in the middle of the living room, effectively killing the space and choking the house, especially after my innocent first comment on it. The L shape wanna be is from Shabby Chic and hauled there for a quick approval by the owners. If the owners read this, please ladies and gentlemen, come to your senses and listen to Julie.
I know I should keep my mouth shot, but the love is in the details. And that furniture is too big.
Julie treated me to a lunch in fancy take out where the stars dine, for our not so apart birthday celebration. Definitely as exciting as eating our ham and cheese sandwiches on her truck. Somewhere near Oxnard, listening Led Zeppelin stereo music and watching the freeway unfold many years ago. Thanks for the lunch and the tour.
OA, Oct 4, 06, Malibu
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