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An Eclectic 1930s House in L.A.

This house wasn’t what the homeowners were looking for—but it ended up being just what they wanted

Dramatic Daybed

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Jim McClintock is good with numbers. By the time the retired marketing executive and his partner, Richard Graves, found this French Eclectic–style house in Los Angeles’s Toluca Lake neighborhood, he tallied they had visited some 252 properties. “This house was the happy ending to our sixteen-month search,” Jim says.

Shown: One of two studies in eye-catching stripes. An expansive new dormer defines the home-office addition with exposed rafters, arched windows, and a dramatic daybed.

Step Stripes

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

But while the couple loved the 1939 three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house the moment they saw it, it was not at all what they had set out to find. “In our mind’s eye, we kept seeing that typical L.A. Spanish-style house: red-tile roof, bougainvillea and a palm tree in the yard, situated on a hillside,” says Jim, who now works as a yoga teacher and is a trustee of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. “But then we saw this and recognized its potential.”

Shown: A twist on the classic stair runner. Wallpaper brightened with multicolor banding runs up just the risers—and is carefully aligned—setting the tone for the spirited space at the top.

Front Entry

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

One of the features that captured the couple’s imagination on their first walk-through was the one-story house’s level yard, with a pool in the back, which would allow them to easily meld indoor and outdoor living. “So many hillside houses we saw required having to go down a flight of stairs to get outside,” says Richard, a website developer. “We wanted a home where you could be outdoors immediately, with no effort.” Once theirs, “the series of dark, choppy spaces with small windows” would require a lot of work—in two phases, over eight years—to fulfill that goal.

Shown: While paint excavation revealed that the 1939 house was originally coral pink, the exterior is now a custom shade of white with hints of blue and gray. The home’s shutters and front door pop in navy blue, while windows are painted pure white for contrast.

Front-door sconce: Arroyo Craftsman

Homeowners and Their Vizslas

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

To realize their vision of a more open floor plan, a small expansion, and, most dramatically of all, a second-floor loft/office space, they hired local architect Jeff Troyer, already a friend. “They had a big wish list,” says Troyer, “and I realized quickly that given the budget, the work would need to be done in phases.” The first one would last 18 months, from design process through construction, and the second would stretch out to 24 months, with a break of more than four years in between.

Shown: Richard Graves (left) and Jim McClintock with their Vizslas on the guest room’s built-in daybed.

Architect: Jeff Troyer, Jeff W. Troyer Associates, Los Angeles

Contractor: Landmark Construction Crew, Los Angeles

Butcher Block Squared

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

The first round of renovations on the L-shaped house involved demolishing a series of interior walls to reconfigure the master suite, a change that meant decreasing the size of the bedroom to gain space for an ample walk-in master closet, what Troyer calls “a showpiece of the house.” The master bath also grew in size. In addition, a former TV room, located several steps down from the living room, was raised and absorbed into the latter space to enlarge it.

Shown: The architect designed the kitchen island around an old butcher block that the homeowners wanted to incorporate. He raised the room’s ceiling to 12 feet with a tray shape and finished the flat center area with painted boards. New floors throughout the house are hand-scraped hickory.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Lead Gray (island, lower cabinets) and Nimbus Gray (upper cabinets at far left)

Backsplash tile: Henry & Grove Brickworks from Waterworks

Pendant lights: Visual Comfort & Co.

Island faucet: Waterstone

Cabinet pulls: Alno Inc.

Knobs: Classic Brass

Contemporary Living

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

A conspicuous feature of that now larger living room is a limestone wall, with a cantilever and three lighted display niches. “Rich and I have binders and folders filled with magazine tear sheets,” Jim says. “One of them had an image similar to the wall that Jeff designed for us. The stone read as very French Country, in keeping with the architectural style of the house, which we wanted to remain true to.”

Shown: Three lighted display niches and inset bookshelves break up the expansive limestone wall in the living room. The masonry feature manages to look both contemporary and in keeping with the age and architectural style of the house. The wood-burning fireplace was already there. A striped rug defines the seating area, its pattern echoing the one on the stair risers leading to the loft/office.

Rug: Dash & Albert

Dining Built-Ins

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Once the rough-cut stone was delivered on-site, it had to be shaped into square and rectangular pieces to create the desired look. With that work done, the stonemason laid out the blocks in the backyard as if working a jigsaw puzzle—with lots of input from Richard. “We wanted the stones set as tightly as possible to minimize the mortar joints,” says Troyer. The pattern then had to be translated onto the wall—all told, a process that ended up taking about four times longer than the mason expected. The wood-burning firebox stayed where it was, in part because California code requires that new fireplaces be gas burning.

Shown: The dining area built-ins feature louvered cabinets similar to vintage ones the owners saw in a photo of a Paris wine shop. Two are shallow, where pantry space was borrowed on the opposite side of the wall to fit the dogs’ crates.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Ivory Tusk (walls) and Santa’s Suit (built-in interiors)

Master Bedroom

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

The second phase of the renovation involved turning the existing kitchen, dining room, laundry, and a small bedroom and bath into a large, open kitchen and dining space with pantry storage, while pushing out the back of the house to add a guest suite with a loft/office above it. Once it was complete, the house had grown by 700 square feet.

Shown: The master bedroom got a new tray ceiling and telescoping French doors.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak (walls)

Doors: T.M. Cobb

Flowerpot: L’AVU

Deep Daybed Alcove

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

One of the signatures of the house’s French Eclectic style is its dramatic hipped roof. This allowed Troyer to raise the ceilings of the kitchen, dining room, and master bedroom and give each one a tray shape, angled at the sides and flat at the top. The kitchen and dining room ceilings have a planked look, while the bedroom’s is finished with a grid of battens for a subtle paneled effect. “There’s not a lot of heavy molding in the house,” says Troyer. “We all agreed to keep any new trim minimal and essential.”

Shown: Expanding the house’s footprint allowed for a new guest bedroom with a deep daybed alcove that hides a flat-screen at one end—or, as Richard Graves dubs it, “a perfect TV cave.” Mattresses were made to fit the space, so it could function as both seating and a sleeping area for guests.

Paint: Benjamin Moore’s Whipple Blue (walls) and White Dove (trim)

Windows: JT Windows

Sconces: Circa Lighting

Double Console

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

So careful, in fact, were the homeowners with any trim that was added that they took some existing pieces to local movie studio workshops. “We brought the original 1939 door and some moldings to the Disney Moulding Shop to have them replicated,” says Jim, a perk of being a former executive. Meanwhile, another molding workshop, at Paramount Studios, expertly fabricated period-style crown molding. “It was a fun way to honor the history of the house while upgrading it,” says Jim.

Shown: The master bath features a double console sink and a tall window that channels natural light.

Tile: Walker Zanger

Faucet: Newport Brass

Luxury Pergola

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Of the many design details to emerge from the latter phase of construction, one of the smallest remains one of the most conspicuous. The risers on the stairs to the loft sport a colorful multi-stripe pattern reminiscent of a men’s shirt by designer Paul Smith. When the painter’s bid proved prohibitive, the owners had the pattern translated onto vinyl wallpaper. The result is both decorative and scuff resistant—and very recognizable. “Those stairs are so popular on Pinterest,” says Troyer, “that according to Jim and Richard, when people walk into the house, they say, ‘Those are your stairs? I’ve seen them online.’ ”

Shown: Part of phase one involved the design and construction of a square redwood pergola with a slatted roof to filter sunlight while remaining open to the sky. The outdoor dining area was sited by the existing pool and is accessible via telescoping French doors from the living room and kitchen/dining room.

Window in the Round

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

The stairs lead to office space defined by a handsome rhythm of arch-top casement windows and exposed rafters overhead, with a custom-built daybed that spans the window wall. But what appears to be just a favorite surface for lounging—particularly popular with the owners’ two Vizslas, Kichai and Koa—also conceals ductwork for the home’s forced-air system. Large storage drawers in the platform base, one of which holds the home’s audio equipment, are interspersed with decorative metal registers. As Troyer says, “The challenge of designing an exposed ceiling like this is that you lose any attic space where you might normally run wiring and mechanicals.”

Shown: A round window in the new guest bath tilts to open. Marble subway-tile wainscoting marries well with the basketweave marble mosaics on the floor.

Encaustic Floor Tiles

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Meanwhile, to keep the ridge of the dormer roof as low as possible to conceal the addition, Troyer worked closely with a structural engineer. Instead of using bulky batt insulation, he chose rigid foam panels that lie flat on the roof’s underside.

Downstairs, the homeowners wanted to maximize the house’s flow. “No matter what kind of party you plan, or where,” says Richard, “everybody always winds up in the kitchen,” a dynamic that the couple, who entertain frequently, knew well before the renovation. So for the reconfigured space, they had Troyer raise the ceiling and combine the room with the open-concept dining room. “This new space is actually the largest room, if I can even call it a room,” says Richard, “and like the rest of the house, except for the bedrooms and bathrooms, there are no interior doors.”

Shown: The new pantry’s encaustic floor tiles are custom. Their vibrant mustard-yellow and royal-blue palette is a classic of Provençal design. The cabinet’s leaded glass was salvaged from the house’s original front door.

Pendant Trio

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Color gives each space its own identity and personality—from the two tones of gray on the kitchen cabinets to the rosy-red interiors of the dining room built-ins to the ethereal blue walls of the guest bedroom, meant to evoke “the feeling of sleeping in the sky,” according to Jim. He adds, “We spent a lot of time testing paint colors.”

Shown: A trio of island pendants help accentuate the kitchen’s 12-foot-high tray ceiling.

Porthole to the Shower

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

The kitchen’s spacious island incorporates an enormous maple butcher block the owners discovered at an antiques store in Elk Rapids, Michigan. “We loved the way it undulated, we loved the character of it, the knife marks, the dovetails,” Jim says. That the wood perhaps dates from the era of the house was another appealing attribute for the homeowners, who were intent on honoring the history of the house. Troyer ended up having to add a support frame of 2x4s to accommodate the weight of the massive block of wood.

Shown: The homeowners sourced the porthole in the new guest bath at a Florida marine supply store, and had a custom chrome-plated flange made to fit the deep shower wall. The porthole funnels light and air into the shower stall.

Two by the Bar

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Among the house’s other highlights are walls of telescoping French doors that lead from the open kitchen/dining area, the living room, and the master bedroom to the yard and pool. When fully open, the doors create unimpeded 12-foot-wide expanses that make for easy circulation.

A second, alfresco dining room sits right outside the doors, beneath a redwood pergola. With the area’s heat and often piercing sun in mind, Troyer devised the structure with two layers on top of the usual rafter assembly, with more rafters crisscrossing the first layer, topped with closely spaced 1xs perpendicular to them, forming a tight latticework. This significantly filters strong sunlight, while the roof remains open and the sky visible. Reinforcing the pergola’s support posts are broad brick plinths that serve as sitting walls for party seating.

Shown: The homeowners’ two Vizslas sit by the wet bar area in the kitchen.

Hipped Roofline

Photo by Ray Katchatorian

Given the scope and length of the project, the homeowners both admit to becoming true renovation detectives during the work. “We learned that if you really, really care about getting the details right in a project, you have got to be there, on-site, and stay observing,” says Richard, as they both point to five binders of paperwork they have kept. “Now that it’s all done,” he continues, with Jim chiming in, “We can say we got exactly what we wanted.”

Shown: As seen from the backyard, the new dormer’s hipped roofline rises just above the main house’s but looks like it’s always been there. Beneath it, a recessed porch area off the guest suite allows for lounging out of the sun. An alfresco dining area sits beneath the custom pergola.

Floor Plans

Floor plan by Ian Worpole

Now 3,026 square feet, the house was renovated in two phases. First, the living room was expanded by eliminating a step-down TV nook and allowing direct access to a backyard pergola, and the master bedroom was made smaller in order to add a large walk-in closet. Phase two opened up the kitchen and dining room, added a guest suite at the rear of the house, and created the upstairs office with stairs inserted behind the kitchen. Ultimately, the changes added just 700 square feet.