Taalman/Koch Renovation Recap

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June 24, 2011

For the past six months, Linda Taalman of Taalman Koch Architecture has been blogging for Dwell.com about her hands-on renovation of her family's live-work rental apartment in Los Angeles. The project embodied several challenges: it's a rental, it's in a historic building (a 1952 Craig Ellwood-designed apartment complex in central Hollywood), and their budget is relatively tight ($10,000). The ongoing series covers a lot of ground, from building work stations for their architecture staff, to designing and installing curtains, to landscaping the courtyard. On Saturday June 25 at 4:30 pm on the Sustainability Stage, Taalman will talk about the challenges and rewards of renovation, and impart creative renovation tips drawn from both professional and personal experience. Here, a recap on how her live-work space has progressed over the past few months.

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  Here's the exterior of the Courtyard Apartments today. As Taalman writes in her Week 1 post: "We first visited the Courtyard Apartments several years earlier—our friend Patricia lived in one of the units and we fell in love with its simple efficiency, and its ability to make living in central Hollywood feel like living the ideal indoor-outdoor Southern California lifestyle. Now, seeing the unit available for rent, we saw the building as a model for living in Los Angeles as it should have been: a simple 3,200-square-foot, two-story, four-unit block, each 800-square-foot unit with its own private courtyard."
    Here's the exterior of the Courtyard Apartments today. As Taalman writes in her Week 1 post: "We first visited the Courtyard Apartments several years earlier—our friend Patricia lived in one of the units and we fell in love with its simple efficiency, and its ability to make living in central Hollywood feel like living the ideal indoor-outdoor Southern California lifestyle. Now, seeing the unit available for rent, we saw the building as a model for living in Los Angeles as it should have been: a simple 3,200-square-foot, two-story, four-unit block, each 800-square-foot unit with its own private courtyard."
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  According to architectural historian Esther McCoy, “The construction of the Courtyard Apartments in 1953 was a turning point... it was proof that [Ellwood] could simplify and at the same time enrich, that he could wring more out of a small budget and come closer to architecture..” Here's the building as it looked when it was first built.
    According to architectural historian Esther McCoy, “The construction of the Courtyard Apartments in 1953 was a turning point... it was proof that [Ellwood] could simplify and at the same time enrich, that he could wring more out of a small budget and come closer to architecture..” Here's the building as it looked when it was first built.
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  In her Week 2 post, Taalman writes: "Making an urban site work for private space while maintaining openness requires some sly architecture moves… Our approach to this renovation in general is light touch. Therefore we needed to come up with a solution that could be done without having to undertake any major alterations." Her solution: enlist a handful of adults and kids to fill the cells in thin polycarbonate panels with sand in white and colored sand, and install these panels in the lower windows of her daughter's bedroom.
    In her Week 2 post, Taalman writes: "Making an urban site work for private space while maintaining openness requires some sly architecture moves… Our approach to this renovation in general is light touch. Therefore we needed to come up with a solution that could be done without having to undertake any major alterations." Her solution: enlist a handful of adults and kids to fill the cells in thin polycarbonate panels with sand in white and colored sand, and install these panels in the lower windows of her daughter's bedroom.
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  A view of the finished panels in place. "In the end our sand panel design for our apartment is a gradient of muted colored sand, somewhat resembling a faded blue jean. The panel reads almost as a shadow from the outside and as a landscape from the inside, mirroring the light effects that change throughout the day," Taalman writes.
    A view of the finished panels in place. "In the end our sand panel design for our apartment is a gradient of muted colored sand, somewhat resembling a faded blue jean. The panel reads almost as a shadow from the outside and as a landscape from the inside, mirroring the light effects that change throughout the day," Taalman writes.
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  Week 3 focuses on consolidating live and work programs into one space. "The Courtyard Apartments lend themselves nicely to an ideal live-work situation due to its two-level parti. The downstairs, with its concrete floors, kitchen, and powder room works for chairs on wheels, lunch and coffee breaks, and keeping the personal private." Taalman and her team built a single 33-foot-long plywood desk along the brick wall, big enough for five workstations and a central hub. The dining table doubles as a conference table and a spillover work space.
    Week 3 focuses on consolidating live and work programs into one space. "The Courtyard Apartments lend themselves nicely to an ideal live-work situation due to its two-level parti. The downstairs, with its concrete floors, kitchen, and powder room works for chairs on wheels, lunch and coffee breaks, and keeping the personal private." Taalman and her team built a single 33-foot-long plywood desk along the brick wall, big enough for five workstations and a central hub. The dining table doubles as a conference table and a spillover work space.
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  One of my favorite posts, at least from a visual perspective, is Week 4, in which Taalman details the making of bright pink and bright blue curtains for adjacent bedrooms. "We started with basic ripstop nylon fabric, a lightweight material used in parachutes, which would work like a color gel on the interior space when closed," writes Taalaman. "Oleana’s room is the only painted room, and since it's white we knew it would pick up whatever color we chose. If you are going to ask a child to select which color they like best, you have to be prepared to have some fun. Of course she chose hot pink!"
    One of my favorite posts, at least from a visual perspective, is Week 4, in which Taalman details the making of bright pink and bright blue curtains for adjacent bedrooms. "We started with basic ripstop nylon fabric, a lightweight material used in parachutes, which would work like a color gel on the interior space when closed," writes Taalaman. "Oleana’s room is the only painted room, and since it's white we knew it would pick up whatever color we chose. If you are going to ask a child to select which color they like best, you have to be prepared to have some fun. Of course she chose hot pink!"
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  "The surprise of opening the door to Oleana’s room from the otherwise dark wood interior of the Courtyard Apartment and finding it aglow with pink is like taking a chromatherapy bath. For the adjacent den—previously a bedroom and now an open loft space—we made a sister curtain in dark blue to create an entirely different mood."
    "The surprise of opening the door to Oleana’s room from the otherwise dark wood interior of the Courtyard Apartment and finding it aglow with pink is like taking a chromatherapy bath. For the adjacent den—previously a bedroom and now an open loft space—we made a sister curtain in dark blue to create an entirely different mood."
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  Posts 5, 9, and 10 deal with the back garden, including trips to local nurseries for plants and outdoor furniture. This image, from post 10, shows Tallamn and her daughter planting creeping thyme between the pavers.
    Posts 5, 9, and 10 deal with the back garden, including trips to local nurseries for plants and outdoor furniture. This image, from post 10, shows Tallamn and her daughter planting creeping thyme between the pavers.
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  To backtrack a bit, post 6 is kitchen-centric. Taalman describes this room as a "multi-functioning space for live and work that is constantly in use and on display." The U-shaped counter shape was original to the design. "I am a big supporter of removing upper cabinets and having open shelving and space instead. However, this means that everything you'd normally hide in your cabinet is now on display. The benefit of this strategy is that you eliminate anything that you absolutely don’t use or want. Everything has to be reduced down to essentials."
    To backtrack a bit, post 6 is kitchen-centric. Taalman describes this room as a "multi-functioning space for live and work that is constantly in use and on display." The U-shaped counter shape was original to the design. "I am a big supporter of removing upper cabinets and having open shelving and space instead. However, this means that everything you'd normally hide in your cabinet is now on display. The benefit of this strategy is that you eliminate anything that you absolutely don’t use or want. Everything has to be reduced down to essentials."
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  In this post, Taalman sings the praises of her under-counter recycling bin (from Ikea), storage drawers, and open shelving. They relined the existing kitchen shelves and drawers with cork sheet material purchased from Linoleum City.
    In this post, Taalman sings the praises of her under-counter recycling bin (from Ikea), storage drawers, and open shelving. They relined the existing kitchen shelves and drawers with cork sheet material purchased from Linoleum City.
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  Week 7 is a flashback, drawing on stories from previous residents of the apartment, including Frank Swig, the first tenant of unit A of the Courtyard Apartments, who lived there from 1953-1962. "Frank gave us a peek into the ‘Mad Men’ era he lived in and the style of the apartment at that time," writes Taalman. He arrived with a folio of clippings and his own photographs of the building. This image portrays Unit B, which has since been joined to Unit A and is Taalman and Koch's living room.
    Week 7 is a flashback, drawing on stories from previous residents of the apartment, including Frank Swig, the first tenant of unit A of the Courtyard Apartments, who lived there from 1953-1962. "Frank gave us a peek into the ‘Mad Men’ era he lived in and the style of the apartment at that time," writes Taalman. He arrived with a folio of clippings and his own photographs of the building. This image portrays Unit B, which has since been joined to Unit A and is Taalman and Koch's living room.
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  As shown in this picture, Taalman and Koch learned that all the wood, inside and out, used to be a natural ‘driftwood’ grey finish, and the floors were gray linoleum tile. (Now the interior wood is natural doug fir and the courtyard wood is painted white). Frank joked that Craig Ellwood did not approve of his furniture.
    As shown in this picture, Taalman and Koch learned that all the wood, inside and out, used to be a natural ‘driftwood’ grey finish, and the floors were gray linoleum tile. (Now the interior wood is natural doug fir and the courtyard wood is painted white). Frank joked that Craig Ellwood did not approve of his furniture.
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  Post 8 was chock-full of useful sourcing information—such as where Taalman got her high-back crate couch and coffee table-bench (Tortoise in Venice); modular steel storage cubes (Container Store); and felt rug (Peace Industries).
    Post 8 was chock-full of useful sourcing information—such as where Taalman got her high-back crate couch and coffee table-bench (Tortoise in Venice); modular steel storage cubes (Container Store); and felt rug (Peace Industries).
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  Post 10, as mentioned before, includes a family outing to Sunset Nursery. Writes Taalman: "Our purchases give new meaning to 'small carbon footprint' for our Subaru!"
    Post 10, as mentioned before, includes a family outing to Sunset Nursery. Writes Taalman: "Our purchases give new meaning to 'small carbon footprint' for our Subaru!"
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  Here's the in-progress back patio (or "garden room") in use. We can't wait to see the project as it continues to evolve. Stay tuned for Week 11, which we'll post on Dwell.com the first week of July.Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!
    Here's the in-progress back patio (or "garden room") in use. We can't wait to see the project as it continues to evolve. Stay tuned for Week 11, which we'll post on Dwell.com the first week of July.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

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