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A 'Mr. Incredible' house

Clean lines, vintage styling and retro furnishings make the Hahns' house a dead ringer for the cartoon superhero's home. An extensive remodel gave it that casual, comfortable feel of the classic California ranch.

January 31, 2009|Debra Prinzing

Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall, wearing an orange linen shirt and blue jeans, animator Don Hahn strides through the foyer of his newly renovated La Canada Flintridge home, juts out his square chin and proclaims, "I wanted a Mr. Incredible house."

As a producer of Disney blockbusters including "The Lion King," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Beauty and the Beast," for which he received an Oscar nomination, Hahn has worked on some of Hollywood's biggest animated hits.

Though "The Incredibles" wasn't one of his projects, with his larger-than-life presence, Hahn sort of resembles that movie's tall, barrel-chested superhero-turned-suburban insurance salesman.

And his house? Its clean lines, vintage styling and 1940s- and '50s-inspired furnishings make it a dead ringer for the modern residence of Mr. Incredible and his crime-fighting cartoon family. Perhaps more important, it's a ranch house remodeled with restraint, an example of how a home can look beautiful and be filled with fine things but still feel casual, comfortable and free of ostentation -- hallmarks of the classic California ranch.

Acquiring and remodeling the house represented a dramatic change in environment for Don and his wife, Denise, an animation artist. They left behind a two-story 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival in Glendale.

"We wanted to get on one story again," Denise says. But it was more than that, she adds. "I guess we're on track with baby boomers who want to live in the houses they grew up in."

Denise's family lived in an "Eichler-esque modern" in Orlando, Fla., and she recalls being enchanted with her Aunt Jackie's house "and its big open spaces and 1950s black terrazzo floors with purple flecks." Don spent his childhood in a ranch house in Bellflower.

When they discovered the aging La Canada Flintridge home, the Hahns loved its proportions and location, but they knew the crowded floor plan and Ozzie-and-Harriet finishes needed updating. The architect's identity was unknown, although the sellers did pass along circa 1941 color home movies of the house's construction.

The Hahns sought help from Pasadena architect Georgie Kajer, who designed renovations for two of their prior homes.

"This house had fairly good bones, so it was mostly a case of editing," Kajer says of the 4,000-square-foot home. "They didn't really need more square footage, but they needed the space to work better."

The redesign required a careful eye to choose materials, finishes, color palette and lighting. Kajer took one look at Denise's idea notebook stuffed with glossy magazine clippings and suggested Jamie Bush, a West Hollywood interior designer with whom she had collaborated before. (When Denise discovered a Bush-designed home in her pile of tear sheets, it seemed predestined that he would join the design team.)

Refined yet upbeat, the finished project invokes a midcentury vibe, but it isn't a period piece.

"Don and Denise really wanted a modern space, but one that's also warm and inviting," Bush says. "We married the design of the architecture with the furnishings, so the overall effect reads as having one author."

Ken Rideout of the Pasadena-based contractor Newhaven Builders removed interior walls to create an open floor plan. Kajer likens it to a loft: "Spaces are defined by how the furniture is placed. We opened up the volumes and allowed spaces to flow from one to another."

The fluidity is conveyed via a cream- and amber-toned terrazzo floor that begins in the kitchen and living room and continues into the master suite, an uninterrupted flow that runs all the way into the shower stall. The designers persuaded a local terrazzo contractor to take on the residential project, considerably smaller than his company's typical airport- and shopping mall-scaled jobs. A thin bronze grid divides the floor's large, rectilinear sections; its composition includes broken beer glass and bits of mother-of-pearl, making it beautiful yet durable.

"We live on it. The dogs live on it," Don says. "You can even roller-skate on it."

A "cottage cheese" dropped ceiling was peeled away, revealing a vaulted space more than 12 feet high, with a beam running along its ridge.

"We decided to work from the roof line down, creating a volume more in proportion to the enlarged room," Kajer says.

The raised ceiling, now finished with tongue-and-groove Douglas fir planks and beams, is a warm contrast to the cool terrazzo. A palette of greens, golds and reds unifies the main spaces in the house.

"All of the rooms are variations on a theme, yet they have the underlying foundation of the terrazzo floors, wood ceilings, tile and stone," Bush says. "The colors are enhanced or subdued, depending on the location." (Only daughter Emilie's bedroom was off-limits; the artsy teenager chose a blue-and-orange scheme.)

At the kitchen's new half-wall and counter, guests can perch on bar stools to chat with Denise as she cooks.

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