Far too many houses are being torn down in the prestigious numbered streets north of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, according to architect R. Mark Fuote.
With 50-foot-wide lots fetching $400,000 and more, the temptation is to bulldoze the existing house and put up a new one. A little thought and a consultation with a savvy architect can often result in preserving a significant house--with significant savings in building costs, he said.
Taking a house on a corner 100-foot-wide lot as an example, he showed how judicious wall removal in the kitchen and the addition of 300 square feet to the master bedroom suite--the house originally had about 5,000 square feet--and the creation of a luxury bathroom transformed the house into a West Coast example of the fashionable "Miami Vice" look.
Actually, pink walls and turquoise trim were the original color scheme of the Mediterranean-style house when Pasadena architect George P. Telling designed it for a banker in 1928, according to the current owners. Before the earth-tone craze hit the Southland in the 1950s, many pastel colors were used in a tasteful way, according to Fuote, who grew up in Miami.
Today, many communities, acting through so-called architectural review boards, dictate color schemes, allowing owners to choose from a meager palette of mud colors. Fuote, principal of Arkineto Architects in Canoga Park, has seen the color he selected for a commercial building in North Hollywood obliterated in favor of a weakened earth shade.
The kitchen, created from the original one and two other smaller rooms, is a "playful" room--in the architect's words--of red, green and white laminates and paint. The black-and-white photo accompanying this column shows some of the "playful" laminate shapes, but the effect of colors can only be hinted at.
Stairs in the revamped kitchen lead to a wine cellar created from the partial basement. Basements are coming back in expensive areas, Fuote said, often providing the only place for a garage and other storage space on typically tiny building sites.
The master bathroom is a dramatic area of angles, soaring ceilings, a large spa tub in a black-tiled step-up platform. The same glossy black tiles are used on the floor.
The clients estimate that the total project cost about $100,000, not including a swimming pool nearing completion. Considering the cost of building a new house, they are indeed fortunate that the house did not suffer the fate of many Westside houses sitting on very pricey dirt.