A Couple Bring Scandinavian Simplicity to a Complicated Renovation in L.A.
For a couple who prefers simplicity, this renovation wasn’t quite that. Cynthia and Dino Corella, the married designers behind the firm Casa Luna Allegra, were looking to raise their two daughters on the quiet, tree-lined streets of suburban Los Angeles when they came across this property in the city’s Baldwin Vista area. "It’s a centrally located neighborhood that’s very diverse and established, and for our kids, it also has great parks," Dino says.
The house itself, which was a 1948, dilapidated one-story structure set on a corner lot, seemed straightforward enough. It had peeled paint and an uneven roofline, but as Dino confidently jokes, "Once you’ve done a few renovations, they don’t differ too much." They bought the house in January of 2020, filled with the promise of a new year and a fresh project. "I started to work on my plans alongside the demolition," Dino remembers. "We were rolling along on schedule until the pandemic hit."
The project was suddenly delayed and the building department was indefinitely closed, but that wasn’t the only obstacle the couple faced. "When we spoke to the previous owner, we found out that he started to do some renovations, but quickly realized it was going to be a huge challenge and stopped," Cynthia says of the unanticipated structural issues. She notes, "The home's foundation, framing, and sewer had problems. There was a lot to do."
Dino decided that the best way to face these separate hurdles was to simply focus on the work. His thoughtful plan embraced the home’s existing midcentury lines and opted to push them more toward those of a modern farmhouse. A backdrop for a palette of natural materials, the main house would have four bedrooms and three bathrooms, while a guest house behind it would be equipped with an extra bedroom and bathroom. "I like to take a home that has been neglected and turn it into the envy of the neighborhood," Dino says. "We wanted everything to feel thoughtful, down to the finishes and details."
Months later, when the industry began moving again, the couple turned their attention to the home’s crumbling foundation, which had settled up to seven inches in some areas and needed to be entirely replaced. "If you start with a building that’s level and plumb, then you end up with a building that’s level and plumb," Dino says of his insistence on creating a solid foundation. The Corellas rebuilt the frame within the same footprint and redesigned the front porch without eaves, then paired it all with new UV-grade windows and a tankless water heater for increased energy-efficiency.
Dino wanted the front door to make a statement, so he also designed it himself. "The scale of it gives you a sense of what to expect before entering the home," he says. "I actually selected the handle before I finished the sketch. Since it’s so long, we had to place it vertically. The vertical-slate design of the white oak complements this, and adds dimension to the more Scandinavian-style exterior," Dino notes.
Inside, the designers specified golden white oak for continuity, vaulted the ceilings, and swathed all the walls in white paint. The effect is especially successful in the kitchen, which sticks to this palette almost exclusively. "We didn't want stainless steel everywhere, nor did we want a lot of hardware," Cynthia says. "Concealing as many appliances as possible with white oak was a key concern. We wanted it to be warm and still functional."
Different types of stone—like limestone for the kitchen countertops and marble for the bathroom flooring—incorporate a hint of texture into the extremely minimalist aesthetic the couple was after. And now that the renovation has wrapped, the couple can view the project as another challenge conquered. "Our lifestyle has always been a simple one," Dino says. "When it came to designing our home, it was all about creating a functional space that we knew we’d enjoy."
Learn more about the design of LifeStraw Home and read about the company’s humanitarian mission in our Dwell story or by visiting lifestraw.com.
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