Modern Undercover

Just three weeks before their wedding, Jason Greenman and Jeanne Williams purchased their home in September of 2000. Having set their hopes on a mid-century modern home nestled in the Hollywood Hills, they decided to take a gander around Hancock Park at the suggestion of their real estate agent. Stumbling upon an open house, they popped in—and despite the home’s fixer-upper status—were sold.
Project 
Lorraine Studio

The garage in particular was both an eye sore and safety hazard. The single-car structure was built in 1922 and its questionable stability relegated it to a glorified storage area and toy closet for their children, 9 year-old Cate and 11 year-old Henry. With the children in prime “playing outdoor” years, Jason and Jeanne noticed how much time was spent in the dilapidated garage and resolved to have it transformed into a modern multi-use space incorporating their “love of the indoor/outdoor Southern California lifestyle.”

Enter architect Mike Jacobs. After visiting the garage, it became apparent the project would entail more than a renovation. A termite infestation, water damage, and cracks in the foundation and slab made it official – a new garage would have to be constructed.

The new design called for a structure in the same location as the old garage with augmented square footage in compliance with the Los Angeles Residential Car Parking requirements – two covered parking spaces. Zoning allowed for additional habitable space, in line with Jeanne and Jason’s visions of creating a space the family could use for a variety of activities. Jacobs placed this on the second floor and as the couple prefers to park their cars in the driveway, the lower floor effectively doubles the recreational space for the family. The second floor functions as a workspace/rec room (and pseudo-treehouse environment for the kids) while the lower is used as an art studio and pool house. The pool house was outfitted with a kitchenette and ½ bath.

Respecting the architecture of the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and coordinating with the family’s home, the traditional style building comes of age on the inside. “Our house [is] a traditional Southern colonial, but had a pared down simplicity that we felt might work with a more contemporary sensibility,” Jeanne explains. An open floor plan and extensive use of windows portray the modernist influence the homeowners drew from, including the architecture of Richard Neutra, Irving Gill, Pierre Koenig and Wallace Neff. “We especially loved the work of Richard Neutra but we also became intrigued with the idea of mixing the traditional and modern and whether it was possible to do that in an effortless, seamless way.” Marrying the traditional and modern paid off in dividends with a secondary union of the indoors with the out via a sliding glass garage door on the ground floor. Born out of necessity to satisfy city requirements, the design also elevates the space’s pool house status. When open, the ground floor merges with the lawn and pool, creating an ideal site for family gatherings.

Jacob’s thumbprint played an integral role in incorporating modernist touches on the interior. After a fastidious study of the main house, he found the design of the new studio emerged on its own. Paying heed to the proportioning and materials from the old architecture he reinterpreted traditional construction methods to create a modern space that fits in its traditional envelope without jarring the eye. Careful consideration was given to the exposed framing in the ceilings. By spacing the beams and blocking cross members at different integrals, Jacobs explains he was able to “produce a non-traditional visual effect.”

Jacobs ensured the couple maintained all trees on the ground through construction. The greenery provides additional privacy and welcomed shade in the pool area. The couple’s commitment to the environment and sustainability is also seen in the solar panels by California Solar Electric. The 3.8 kW of energy is used to power and light the studio, outdoor lights, and the pool heater. Additional energy is fed first to the main house and then to the Los Angeles power grid.

Proving a catalyst of strong unions (traditional with modern and indoors with out), the Lorraine Studio also brought together an ideal architecture/client pairing. Jeanne described the process as a joy, with Jacobs never imposing his vision but instead educating and encouraging her and Jason to rethink design challenges. Of the clients, Jacobs says “aesthetics and quality were chosen over budget,” a true coup for any architect. In between site visits, the architect was able to check in on construction progress daily from his office in New York by a webcam set-up by the homeowners. Another perfect fit was found with general contractor Paul White who was in constant communication with Jacobs throughout the yearlong construction process.

From a place for quiet meditation to parties and napping to art projects, the family now enjoys a not-too-far home-away-from-home without bother of termites or worry for injury. They continue to find new uses for their multi-purpose studio everyday, though Jeanne may not be pleased if Jason’s threats to turn it into a wood and metal shop come to fruition.

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