The Barn and the Lantern

Edgar Lyall, a television writer, and Elizabeth Wise, a Lifetime network executive, bought a 1,000-square-foot 1941 prewar bungalow in Studio City, California, that they quickly grew very fond of, but after living in it for several years and becoming intimately acquainted with how the house functioned, the couple felt that they needed to gain some space and light. Lyall says the design concept for an addition was clear: “We had this old 1940s black rotary-dial phone we kept on this funky, modern white spool table. We wanted an addition that would work like that: vintage and modern elements coexisting together. That was really our starting point.”

They came across the work of Chinmaya Misra and Apurva Pande of the Los Angeles–based Chinmaya + Apurva: Collaborative design studio, whose remodel of their own house seemed to fit with what Lyall and Wise envisioned. (Misra and Pande met in New Delhi, got married, enrolled in grad school at SCI-Arc and UCLA, respectively, worked for Jon Jerde and Frank Gehry, then set out on their own.) “We liked their aesthetic, and we knew that they had gone through this before and would understand what we would be in for,” says Lyall, who wanted to open the house up to more light by creating a large, open dining area that could serve as an additional workspace during the day, and adding a master bedroom.

The question of how to integrate the existing vintage elements of the house with a more open pavilion addition was complicated by space restrictions. “We were limited to the space between the house and a pool in the back, so we could only extend the house a certain amount, while retaining enough patio space for them to be comfortable outdoors,” says Misra. “Our strategy was to divide it into two parts; one public, for living and dining, and one private, a master suite off of the study,” says Misra. The pair conceptualized a modest, 700-square-foot addition that they refer to as “the lantern and the barn;” the lantern being the open, glass-filled pavilion with a slanted roof, and next to it the barn, a pitch-roofed, enclosed structure to house the bedroom and remodeled bathroom (the house retained two bathrooms; one original and one gutted and replaced).

Misra and Pande knocked down an oppressive wall dividing the living and kitchen area, off of which they added the lantern, which has retracting doors that open onto a deck that steps down to the pool. While they were at it, they gutted the original kitchen, its early-1940s one-person configuration no longer working for the residents, who wanted a larger space in which to prep and host dinner parties. “We were running into each other in there,” says Lyall. Restricted by the location of the fireplace, “we reorganized everything around it,” says Pande. “We put in new countertops and millwork, and we used the fireplace as the focal point to generate the merging of new and old, always with respect to the existing house.”

The barn portion is far more private, housing the couple’s new bedroom and bath. Large windows look out to the pool, but the room is hidden from the neighbor’s sight lines and almost completely closed off on the far side, with the exception of a horizontal sliver window to let in light and air. Conversely, off the more public, lantern side, the exterior wall is a celebration, and resembles a vertical interpretation of what Mondrian might have made if he was not allowed to use anything from the red family. “There was some blue in the pool tiles, an old-school barbecue with blue ceramic tiles and some chartreuse in things they owned, so we decided to make this wall into a mini-project incorporating the residents’ favorite colors,” says Pande, who points out that this little project conceals a substantial shear wall that had to laterally brace the cantilevered door frame.

“We cook and have people over a lot more often now,” says Lyall. “We open the doors off the dining room all the time, and we feel like we are completely outside. It doesn’t feel cramped anymore, and it’s fun to see the interaction of the two architectural styles. The space has made a huge difference for us; it’s sort of like an upgrade.”

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