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A Marriage of Art and Architecture

August 24, 1986|VIRGINIA GRAY | Virginia Gray is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine

For the past 11 years, artist D. J. Hall and her husband, architect Toby Watson, have lived in this house fronting upon a Venice canal. The two have seen photographs of their neighborhood and house dating from the mid-1920s, but they're still not sure of the house's exact age. "In those pictures, the house was a flat-roofed stucco structure with Spanish overtones," Watson says. "Some years later, the stucco was replaced with wood siding, and the roof was given the gabled pitch it has now."

Before Hall and Watson remodeled it six years ago, the two-bedroom house had only 700 square feet of living space. In remodeling, they added 300 square feet (including an upstairs bedroom and bath), reinsulated and reworked all interior wall surfaces, and converted their water heater and furnace to solar power. The result is a more spacious and functional living and working arrangement plus a natural-gas bill that averages between $5 and $10 a month.

Watson not only designed the addition but also served as contractor. "My concerns as an architect are basically those of a modernist," he says. "But since we were working on an older home in a historic area, we felt compelled to retain the basic exterior appearance of the structure while using modern design principles and details on the inside--just simple shapes, clean white surfaces, no frills."

The couple expanded the living room horizontally by knocking out a wall between it and a front bedroom, and vertically by removing the ceiling and exposing the rough-hewn beams that supported the gabled roof. The other downstairs bedroom was made into Hall's studio. The kitchen was modernized, and a service porch, where the old gas water heater had been, is now a breakfast-dining room.

The upstairs bedroom and bath are accessible by an open-tread staircase. The rooms maintain the design of the older parts of the house, including a gabled roof with rough wood ceilings. Clerestory windows and white tile in the bathroom add to the contemporary tone.

"Toby has a knack for making small spaces work," Hall says. "I'm a painter, but I always thought I wanted to be an architect. The artist in me appreciates his ability to work in three dimensions with space and light."

PRODUCED BY ANA ERICKSEN

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