How does one restore a derelict house designed by one of the founding fathers of California modernism, updating it into a green, functional home for a young family?
This was the challenge facing Culver City-based architect Steven Ehrlich when he purchased a 2-bedroom, 981-square-foot house designed by Rudolf M. Schindler in 1939. The house, sited on a 5,400-square-foot lot in Inglewood, is one of three single-story plaster-façade homes by Schindler on West Ellis Avenue. In 71 years the house had had only two owners and was in original but very poor condition.
The home is an articulated flat-roofed box, with clerestory windows and large panels of glass bringing in light and opening interior spaces to the garden. Ehrlich preserved wherever possible original materials such as wood window- and door frames, yet replaced the openings with tempered glass. Some original elements damaged beyond repair by years of neglect, such as baseboards, were replaced.
All walls, ceilings and roof were insulated; an asbestos FAU system was replaced with a new rooftop HVAC unit and ducting. Metal caps that had been added over the years to exterior stucco walls to keep the rain out were replaced with invisible waterproofing membranes, recapturing Schindler’s crisp wall-to-roof lines.
Many interior elements, including much of the built-in furniture and storage space, were salvaged and restored. The original brick and plaster fireplace was meticulously restored and once again serves as the natural focal point of the living room. In other areas, Ehrlich interprets Schindler’s precedents with a modern flair. The kitchen and bathroom are both new, but continue Schindler’s approach with a handle detail that reflects the existing built-in desks. LED lighting technology is also used throughout the house as a nod to modern energy efficiency.
The existing brick patio was relocated to the back of the garden. Ehrlich designed a galvanized steel trellis inspired by the sleeping porches of Schindler’s 1922 Kings Road masterpiece to provide shade and support for a grape vine growing on the property.
Extensive new drought-resistant landscaping ties together the front yard with the neighboring Schindler-designed home, the way the modernist originally intended, to foster a sense of shared space.Location: Inglewood, California, USA
Architect: Steven Ehrlich | Ehrlich Architects General Contractor: Shramek Building Co. Landscape: Hammerschmidt & Lidow, Landscape Design Lighting: Bill Gonzales/David Silverman & Associates, Inc
Photographer: Grant Mudford