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Breaking Out of the Bungalow

Updated Rooms Encourage Open-Air Living With a Nod to the Past

October 04, 1998|BARBARA THORNBURG

"There's a continuum of time reflected in this house that I wanted to keep," says architect Steven Shortridge of his newly renovated home--an early 20th century Spanish house built in Pasadena and then moved to Venice in 1937. Though Shortridge is a partner in the Beverly Hills firm Israel Callas Shortridge and is known for strikingly modern homes, he quickly recognized the possibilities in preserving and updating this modest one-story structure. "I wouldn't replicate the past," he insists, "but I'm not out to destroy it."

The 750-square-foot bungalow-style house had been vacant for nearly a decade when Shortridge bought it two years ago. "Only part of the original building was moved," he says, speculating that the owner at the time may have wanted a small second home near the beach. The old front parlor, now Shortridge's bedroom/office, and the dining room, now a living-dining space, were the only "proper rooms," he says. The kitchen and laundry room were added on-site later.

Among the first things Shortridge did to modernize was raise the eight-foot ceilings to 10 feet, then clad them in Douglas fir. To introduce additional light, he positioned a skylight over the shower and a clerestory window over the bed. Sleek mid-century furnishings--a mix of originals and reproductions by Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen and Vladimir Kagan--are kept to a minimum "so that they didn't feel too heavy in the small space," he explains. A wool area rug in a color he calls "putting green" brings a sense of the outdoors in. Elsewhere, built-in closets of medium-density fiberboard and Douglas fir veneer create a streamlined contemporary look.

Shortridge retained vintage flavor by restoring baseboards, windows and a sliding pocket door that still divides the two main rooms. He also saved the original dining room breakfront. "It's a piece that had character and integrity," he says. "I just moved it a few feet when we opened the wall." Next to the kitchen, old laundry room casement windows were rehung so they now open outward to the garden.

Outside, Shortridge removed the tile coping at the top of the roof, then steel-troweled the textured stucco smooth. The cayenne-colored plaster finish was inspired by an existing bougainvillea. In the backyard, which borders a busy pedestrian alley, he added a garden wall of fiberglass and concrete panels for privacy and dubbed the gate his "new front door."

Perhaps the boldest stroke of the renovation, however, was tying the house to the rear landscape. "Before, you had to go through two sets of doors in the laundry room just to get outside," Shortridge recalls. For easier access, Shortridge removed the laundry room doors, then raised the original garden floor two feet to install a poured-concrete patio. The focal point of the terrace is a steel and concrete fireplace. Landscape designer Jay Griffith planted queen palms, plum trees, Mexican weeping bamboo and orange cannas to serve as walls for the outdoor room. "The sky becomes a high ceiling," Shortridge says. "The world today is so hectic. We all need a quiet place to retreat."

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