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FALL HOME DESIGN

The Custom Condo

Remodeling Rooms With a Personalized View

November 02, 1997|Barbara Thornburg

It was your quintessential nondescript condo, complete with 'cottage cheese' ceiling, particleboard cabinets and hollow-core doors," says CBS News correspondent Bill Lagattuta of the Santa Monica condominium he purchased nine years ago. To transform the standard-issue space, Lagattuta hired husband-and-wife architects Susan and David Frisch of Frank & Frisch in Burbank. (Frank is her maiden name.) The resulting redesign, with its tranquil palette, sleek furnishings and sculptural detailing, fulfilled Lagattuta's dream of owning a "sophisticated urban dwelling by the beach."

Every aspect of the home was transformed, from small interior appointments such as the air-conditioning vents, oven hood and medicine chest doors to larger architectural elements such as walls, windows, doors and the fireplace. To create a feeling of heft and permanence, the architects doubled the thickness of the existing 6-inch center wall, which runs the length of the condo. They then cut out and lit niches to display Lagattuta's eclectic pottery collection. Along the living room window wall, a soffit hides sunscreens that camouflage bland aluminum-framed windows. And hollow-core doors, jambs and baseboards have been replaced with solid cherry. "We wanted to give the condominium a totally custom look," says David, whose firm specializes in fabricating metal furnishings and finishes such as the steel-wrapped entry door and copper and blackened-steel fireplace.

But the condo presented other problems, too. Its shotgun layout--with rooms arranged one behind another--rendered a long, narrow living room incompatible with a comfortable seating arrangement. So the designers divided the 32-by-12-foot area: A low ceiling and patch of gray carpet define an intimate sitting area, and a higher ceiling and an upholstered bench placed perpendicular to the wall define the main living area. "Guests can turn in either direction and be part of whichever area they choose," Susan explains. Hand-troweled Venetian plaster in salmon or concrete gray adds dimension to walls and further distinguishes the two spaces.

Perhaps the condo's biggest downfall, however, was that its ocean views were limited to the bedroom's corner window and the living room balcony doors. "It was an architectural nightmare," Lagattuta remembers. "Most of the units in the complex have views of each other--not the ocean." To remedy the situation, the architects cut an opening in the center wall, allowing the living room to borrow from the bedroom's abundance of light. Now, when Lagattuta returns from globe-trotting assignments, he can relax by the beach and actually see it, too.

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