Graphic Design Inspired This Handcrafted Canyon Hideaway

Graphic Design Inspired This Handcrafted Canyon Hideaway

By Heather Corcoran
In Topanga Canyon, a family redesigns a midcentury home with a contemporary twist—and finds a new calling in the process.

Lara and Chad Hogan had no idea how much a hike could change their life. But one day in 2014, the couple, recent transplants from the East Coast, set out to explore California's Topanga Canyon. That's when they stumbled upon a 1948 cabin with a 1960s addition with a sign that said "For Sale By Owner." They hadn't even thought about the budget for their future home, but knew that this was the place.  

"We saw the view out the windows, and we were like, 'This is where we need to be,'" Lara recalls. 

In California's Topanga Canyon, Lara and Chad Hogan used their creative backgrounds to transform a 1948 cabin with a 1960s post-and-beam addition into a personalize family home—and developed a design business in the process.

"Every single room in the house connects to the outside," Lara says. "Being New Yorkers who moved to California, feeling like we were living in the mountain was huge for us. Our deck really is an extension of the living room." 

Though the house was dated, Chad and Lara immediately saw its potential. And with their creative backgrounds—she's a publicist, he's a creative director—they knew they could add their personal spin to the home. 

"We didn’t want to live in somebody else’s house—someplace too perfect, too nice," Chad recalls. "This place was in good shape, it wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t a teardown—it just needed some love."

One of the existing elements that Lara and Chad Hogan kept at their Topanga Canyon home was a door that the previous owners, archaeologists, had imported from South America. 

Besides the view, the home's most dramatic element is a fireplace built from a gear from an old oil rig. To keep up with code regulations, the Hogans added a concrete base, which they customized with text celebrating the year they moved in.  

Their first challenge was uniting the spaces. Decades of piecemeal work had left the house feeling like a series of disconnected rooms, each with a different floor—terra cotta tile, old wood, newer wood, parquet—and all dominated with dark wood paneling dominated. 

While the Hogans knew they'd need to update, the also wanted to stay true to the home's original architecture—and the Canyon's bohemian spirit."We wanted to go with the feel of the house and not disregard what it's all about," Chad says. "Luckily, a lot of what we had made sense."  

Reorganizing the kitchen and dining area was a key point of the renovation. Now it's an open space that links to the deck, which the family uses as an outdoor living space. 

"The way I look at design, it’s just a 3D graphic. Textures, the furniture—there are graphics in everything. When you go to a really interesting house there has to be something that’s beyond the typical furnishings. It brings the space to life." —Chad Hogan, resident and designer

The couple's minimalist bedroom was imagined like a suite in a boutique hotel. There is a bedroom, closet, and bathroom, but minimal furniture as to avoid cluttering the bright white space.  

The couple selected a crisp white backdrop to highlight their deeply personal selection of art, vintage finds, and custom furnishings. ("We’re such collectors; we like stuff," Lara says. "We’re definitely not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination.")

Together they developed a type of rustic modernism for the 1,800-square-foot house that's "has a very lived-in electric warm feel," Lara says, "but with very updated and modern touches."

The famous Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena was a source for many of the house's vintage elements—including sliding barn doors and the axes used as door pulls on the home's exterior.

The office is filled with personal projects. Chad built the desk using Husky utility cabinets. A photograph from a photoshoot he did with Lil Wayne is printed on the work surface.

Looking back to their experience in branding, the couple honed in on graphic design as a source of inspiration. Custom text touches abound, from the cement base of their fireplace to an inlaid tile mural in the guesthouse bathroom.

Chad looked to his experience in graphic design when creating his family's home. Elements of text and graphics can be found throughout, including the inlaid tiles that spell out "So Fresh & So Clean" in the guesthouse bathroom.

Though brightening the house was a top priority, the couple kept the original cedar cladding and raw redwood ceiling in the guest house as a nod to the home's original style.

Throughout the process of creating a home for their young family, Lara and Chad, who grew up working on construction projects and had built furniture for many of his previous apartments, realized that interior design was their calling. "This really solidified it for me, this is what I want to do," Chad says. 

Now, from their new home base in the canyon, the couple has embarked on a new collaborative career with their design firm, Chandler Farms

Cover photo by Heather Culp.


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