THE FEW REMAINING vintage homes in Los Angeles are highly prized bits of living history. Often as not, however, time has not been kind: Foundations may be eroded, windows smashed, roofs substandard, outer walls rotting beneath aluminum siding, ceilings lowered and spacious rooms chopped into apartments.
Period homes require restoration experts. Aided by old books, photographs and blueprints, these historical detectives evaluate clues found beneath loose bricks or wallpaper to determine how a historic house once appeared and how to restore it. They know where to find materials and ornaments no longer produced. They know how to make additions, modifications and perhaps even improvements in the exact style of the original.
Architect/structural engineer Melvyn Green, for instance, completely refurbishes old buildings from the foundation right up to the weathervane. He prevents and repairs earthquake damage and works with City Hall "to respect, preserve and maintain the beauty of Los Angeles' early homes."
Designer/engineer Tom Witt of Quali-Craft has a vast library of vintage blueprints. His delightful period additions include a 12-sided dome and coved, back-lit stained-glass bedroom ceiling that made a Tudor house in Seal Beach into a historic showplace.
The Bundy Estate, the Jolson Estate, the old Wrigley/Tournament of Roses House and the Gamble House/USC have been restored by designer/contractor Randall Marder. His work includes the repair of the homes' fine woodwork and antiques.
"There's a spirit you can feel in these old houses," says interior designer/historian Mandie Billari, who uses and reproduces old fabrics, panels and decorations in the many inner-city homes she renovates. She duplicates original color and detail, plans compatible additions, even restores damaged boiserie, stenciling and murals.
Melvyn Green Associates is located in Manhattan Beach, Quali-Craft Constructors in Riverside, Randall Marder in West Los Angeles and Mandie Billari of the American Architectural Preservation Group in Los Angeles.