(fer) studio

(fer) studio

Inglewood, CA


Altadena Residence

Project Scope: Exterior and interior remodel to a 1,135 square foot 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom one-story California bungalow style home in Altadena, CA. 

The Altadena residence project is a small residential remodel to an existing California bungalow style home. The project took place in two phases.  The first phase started design in the fall of 1998 and was completed onsite in early spring of 2000. The second phase started design in the spring of 2003 and was completed on the site in fall of 2004 with a final landscape design completed in place in the spring of 2005.
The overall concept was to take a small house with a minimal construction budget, and without modifying the existing building foot print, expand the living experience of the home through the creation of exterior patio/garden spaces (similar in concept to the many of the case study houses of the 1950’s). In addition, (fer) studio was asked to give the house a more contemporary feel and styling yet stay within the boundaries set forth by its bungalow tradition. The owners of the home, both creative professionals in the Los Angeles Arts and Music arenas, were instrumental in the design and development of the project.
The first phase of the project consisted of a kitchen remodel and the creation of a front yard patio. The kitchen was totally revised with a new open layout, raised ceiling, new contemporary cabinetry and lighting. The exterior windows were replaced with two sets of French doors that open onto an extended entry porch, then step down to a new breakfast patio space with a built-in BBQ station and privacy walls.  Final touches included a new landscape design scheme for the entire front yard that was later enhanced by landscape designer, Ania Lejman and the ALD Design team.

In phase two, (fer) studio took advantage of a large rear lot space that was completely disconnected from the interior of the house. The rear wall, only containing small windows from the two bedrooms and bathroom, forced the clients to go out the side driveway door and walk around the house, in order to access their back yard. In addition, the rear yard dropped 48” in elevation from the house finish, and continued to slope down towards the rear of the yard, which made room for a potentially nice visual vista.
Two mature California native oaks frame the rear yard and are a wonderful example of the ‘borrowed landscape’ concept.  Both oak trees are situated in the adjacent neighbor’s yard yet cast dramatic shadows on the project site, providing ample shade in the summer months.  The design intent was to open the back of the house to the yard by adding floating balconies, which resolved the severe variation in grade between the home and garden, and French doors off both bedrooms, providing access to the yard from the home.  
Off the bathroom, a single frosted glass door leads to an outdoor shower enclosed in concrete block with a tile interior, open to the sky above. Steps descend from one of the bedroom balconies down to a new concrete patio with built-in seating, just below the canopy of the first Oak tree. At the other end of the yard, a second concrete patio, (also with built-in bench) was created just below the canopy of the Oak tree.  Along the side wall of the existing garage, a concrete planter that transitions into a tranquil water element was created to help unify the concrete work across the entire yard. Finally, up-lighting the patios and balconies, landscape lighting, landscape plantings including raised planting berms secured the finishing touches and helped to reinforce the various outdoor spaces.
The garden is a harmony between the rectilinear hardscape, and the softness of the plant materials, their blue-gray palette, the gently curving permeable decomposed granite pathways and islands of billowy grasses.  The drought tolerant plant palette includes blue fescue, creeping thyme, bronze carex grass, flax, salvias and succulents.  Bamboos including ‘Alfonse Karr’, black, and giant timber varieties screen out unsightly views while purple hopseed and shimmering foliaged pittosporum screen the rear perimeter of the yard.  In addition to providing a sense of coolness and white noise, the water feature also separates the kitchen garden bed from the entertaining side of the garden and includes a recycled brick footpath reclaimed from the former Geffen Contemporary Museum’s construction site.
The intent of the project was to increase the spaciousness of a small house by taking advantage of large undeveloped yard areas, and to modernize its look and feel. To do this, intimate outdoor spaces were created through hardscape yard walls, patios, balconies, and by incorporating a useful, updated water-wise landscape. This, followed by opening numerous interior rooms to the outdoors with French doors, allowed these rooms to extend out visually and spatially into the yard.  Overall, the project acts as a much larger home by allowing the house and the yard to merge into a single indoor/outdoor living space.

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Status: Built
Location: Altadena, CA