A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles

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By Aileen Kwun
Linear sight lines and a game-changing terrace revamp a midcentury home in the Pacific Palisades.

"When they found the home, I knew it was the right one," says architect Kevin Southerland. He's referring to his clients, Mark Cramer and Tracy Le, who he met through a mutual pal, photographer Benny Chan. The architect was initially introduced to help Mark renovate his condo in Santa Monica when, along the process, the couple decided to find a home together. 

With an eye for good bones, Southerland consulted Tracy and Mark on different options as they toured properties along the Southern California coastline. They eventually landed in the Pacific Palisades, on a charming residential street named after the late film director, producer, and actor Jack Conway—where they chanced upon a one-story home that showed little evidence of any alterations from its original construction forty years ago. 

The property had never been sold, and was held by the son of the original owner, Paul, "a longtime local surfer who had very deep emotional ties to the home," says Southerland. Having grown up and lived in it for years, "Paul wanted to make sure that he sold it to someone who would respect its history and not try to destroy its original character. In his mind, Mark and Tracy were clearly the right people to take stewardship of this home and with my help, to renovate and update it."

As lifelong surfer himself, Southerland found kinship and trust from Paul, and as one of the first 100 architects to receive LEED accreditation in California, "I am deeply committed to sustainable design strategies," he vows. While Tracy and Mark requested a new trellis for the courtyard, and felt the interior needed to be gently reconfigured, they all agreed: "The most sustainable strategy was to reuse as much of the structure as possible," says Southerland. 

Below, a look at the revamped structure with notes from Southerland.

A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles - Photo 1 of 5 - Located in the Pacific Palisades, the original structure (left) had been virtually untouched for over 40 years; architect Kevin Southerland recently renovated it with an eye for preserving its "good bones" and gently updating it with eco-friendly materials. A new layer of painted cement board (right) now coats the exterior, lending it long-term durability and resistance to decay.

Located in the Pacific Palisades, the original structure (left) had been virtually untouched for over 40 years; architect Kevin Southerland recently renovated it with an eye for preserving its "good bones" and gently updating it with eco-friendly materials. A new layer of painted cement board (right) now coats the exterior, lending it long-term durability and resistance to decay.

"The most sustainable strategy
was to reuse as much
of the structure as possible."
—Kevin Southerland, architect

A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles - Photo 2 of 5 - Striated wood paneling and new skylights give light and dimension to the renovated entryway. 

Striated wood paneling and new skylights give light and dimension to the renovated entryway. 

A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles - Photo 3 of 5 - "By removing a few interior walls, reconfiguring a couple of others and opening up the kitchen/living/dining areas, we were left with a wonderfully livable floor plan with a great balance of public and private space," says Southerland. A large, open galley style kitchen and mirrored planes of wall paneling visually expand the home's interior perspective.

"By removing a few interior walls, reconfiguring a couple of others and opening up the kitchen/living/dining areas, we were left with a wonderfully livable floor plan with a great balance of public and private space," says Southerland. A large, open galley style kitchen and mirrored planes of wall paneling visually expand the home's interior perspective.

A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles - Photo 4 of 5 - "The rear yard, given the property's limited size, presented more of a conundrum," says Southerland. "We came up with the idea of using the roof of the garage as a roof deck to add useable area to the rear." Taking advantage of the gently sloped site, he built a series of terraced bleacher-style seating above and around the detached garage, doubling its roof as an additional terrace, and effectively bridging the backyard space into one multi-level whole.

"The rear yard, given the property's limited size, presented more of a conundrum," says Southerland. "We came up with the idea of using the roof of the garage as a roof deck to add useable area to the rear." Taking advantage of the gently sloped site, he built a series of terraced bleacher-style seating above and around the detached garage, doubling its roof as an additional terrace, and effectively bridging the backyard space into one multi-level whole.

A Mid-Century Modern Makeover in Los Angeles - Photo 5 of 5 - A view of the completed renovation; from the street, the open amphitheater-style courtyard appears as a simple wooden addition, privately tucked away. Wood slats, exterior cladding, and the new trellis all combine to form a linear motif.

A view of the completed renovation; from the street, the open amphitheater-style courtyard appears as a simple wooden addition, privately tucked away. Wood slats, exterior cladding, and the new trellis all combine to form a linear motif.

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