Collaborative Completion of a Mid Century Modern Home 48 Years Later

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By Margot MANDEL
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Just as people often say, it came to her in the middle of the night, the epiphany of epiphanies.
Looking from the Living Room addition across the extended Entry addition to the downstairs Master en Suite addition with back of the newly built carport on the right. Suspended fireplace by Brisach with all sliding doors including sliders that disappear into wall pockets by Fleetwood.

Looking from the Living Room addition across the extended Entry addition to the downstairs Master en Suite addition with back of the newly built carport on the right. Suspended fireplace by Brisach with all sliding doors including sliders that disappear into wall pockets by Fleetwood.

Margot had kept the business card of the gentleman who designed and built her house for nearly as many years as she owned the house, 20 years at the time in 2009. Shortly after Margot purchased the home in 1989, a convergence of sorts took place. The Building Designer's oldest daughter, Debbie, came to pick up Craig, the foreman of a construction crew Margot had working on the house. When Debbie arrived that afternoon, she exclaimed, "I know this house. I spent the first 11 years of my life in this house". The very next day, while Margot was at work, Debbie came back to Margot's house to leave her father’s card on the dining room table.

Story and a half Entrance on left with living room on same level. Up a split level is the Family Room. Engineered Hickory/Pecan wood throughout with polished concrete floors and mantle for original Fireplace. Built in shelving to display books horizontally on right most wall with accompanying framed display of ashtrays from all over the world dating back to the 1960's.

Story and a half Entrance on left with living room on same level. Up a split level is the Family Room. Engineered Hickory/Pecan wood throughout with polished concrete floors and mantle for original Fireplace. Built in shelving to display books horizontally on right most wall with accompanying framed display of ashtrays from all over the world dating back to the 1960's.

It was a Thursday Margot recalls, the morning after the night she had the epiphany. Maybe the gentleman on the card would know of a landscape architect who "gets" the house. However, who knew if the Building Designer still had the same phone number, still lived in the area or for that matter was still alive. After all Margot's house was the first house that he designed and built when he was 23 in 1961. That was 48 years ago.

Dining area and Kitchen. Built in seating for both dining and wine rack and poured in place concrete counters/backsplash. Custom alder cabinets designed to wrap around the beams.

Dining area and Kitchen. Built in seating for both dining and wine rack and poured in place concrete counters/backsplash. Custom alder cabinets designed to wrap around the beams.

Margot called from work later that Thursday morning. "Hello, this is Bill Morrow," the voice said on the other end of the phone. Margot's heart was pounding a mile a minute. To her it was if she was talking to Gandhi, her hero. Margot explained to Bill who she was and what she was after thinking he knew the house so well that he could give her a landscape architect referral. Essentially, everyone Margot had interviewed whether recommended or not proposed the same thing. No one "got" the house. "I do hardscapes, but not landscapes," Bill ultimately said.

Expanded Kitchen with built in appliances. Spice rack is by Desu Design.

Expanded Kitchen with built in appliances. Spice rack is by Desu Design.

That weekend Bill's wife was out of town so he and Margot made plans for him to come over that Saturday morning. "Welcome Home!" Margot said as she opened up the auto gates to invite in the man who had not set foot on the property since he sold the house in 1972: The man who was responsible for creating a space that reads and feels like no other. After all, Margot was only the third owner. In fact, she thought that she would flip the house given the 1989-90 real-estate craze in Los Angeles. The more she lived in the space, the more she came to understand the brilliance of Bill's space efficient design.

Monolithic concrete 3/4 Bath. Sink, shower, and planter use all the same in-line drain by Infinity.

Monolithic concrete 3/4 Bath. Sink, shower, and planter use all the same in-line drain by Infinity.

About a month into the design of the hardscape, Margot asked Bill if he ever thought about pushing out a particular wall in the living room of the house. Once Bill and Margot got that plan ironed out, Margot went back to Bill, yet again, and asked if he ever thought of enclosing the existing carport since there was enough room in the long, extended driveway to build a new carport. In time, an additional Master en suite was added in the old carport space to complement the original Master en suite on the upper level of the tri-level split home.

Spa under detached hillside cantilevered studio. Coping is poured in place concrete while surround is prematurely rusted steel.

Spa under detached hillside cantilevered studio. Coping is poured in place concrete while surround is prematurely rusted steel.

"For nearly 50 years I have questioned whether or not my agonizing decision of where to place the house on the property was the right choice," Bill said one day. "I feel like I have come home to finish the home. With your design input and choices of finishes, I cannot imagine the house any other way. I now know that placing the original home near the rear set back was, indeed, the right decision."

Detached tri-sided cantilevered hillside studio with adjoining spa. Terracing and spa surround prematurely rusted steel. 

Detached tri-sided cantilevered hillside studio with adjoining spa. Terracing and spa surround prematurely rusted steel. 

Together that is what Bill and Margot have done, project after project until, in the end, Margot sold the finished home to the 4th owners, Cynthia, George, baby Xander and sweet Bella. Margot with her design/architectural expertise, after all, was the conduit and driving force to finish the house with Bill. In a recent phone call, Cynthia remarked to Margot, "We feel that this is your house but our home. We forever wish to keep all updating decisions in line with your vision." There are no truer words to define the quintessential architectural marriage between creator and enthusiastic homeowners.