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West Hollywood Craftsman no longer shows its age

The West Hollywood home looked scruffy when Welly Yang first saw it. But he and his wife recognized its potential and transformed it into a habitable and hip environment.

May 29, 2011|By Mary Forgione
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Nick Carlson / (61734690.jpg )

When Welly Yang laid eyes on the California Craftsman on a West Hollywood side street, the frontyard was overgrown and surrounded by a chain-link fence, the windows were boarded up, and the oak floors were so worn they couldn't take another sanding. But there was something about the bones, the house's sturdy structure, that spoke to him. He decided to take a chance and redo it — from bottom to top.

The gamble paid off. In six months, Yang and his wife, Dina Morishita, transformed the aging Craftsman into a habitable and hip environment. He started by rethinking the interior and using two criteria — Is it beautiful? Is it functional? — to guide each decision he made about whether to keep something original to the house or ditch it.

Photos: West Hollywood Craftsman

"I believe in reusing and preserving anything you can," Yang says. "Why throw out beautiful windows and replace them with ugly vinyl?"

Indeed, the long windows that open onto the frontyard from the living room and master bedroom retain their thick, leaded glass. And built-in drawers and shelves throughout the house have been smartly incorporated in the home's reconfigured open floor plan.

Now, the ugly chain-link fence has been replaced with a crisp white fence. The frontyard has a neatly cropped lawn and shade tree that lead to a front door painted bright red, the Chinese color for prosperity and luck. Inside, the simple floor plan reflects the design of a simpler time. Rooms are arranged railroad style: the living room, dining area and kitchen on the south side; two bedrooms and a master bathroom on the parallel north side.

The centerpiece of the living room is a retiled fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases. The wide entryway from the living room reveals the open dining area and kitchen. The kitchen has been updated with light marble counter tops and contrasting gray tile. Beyond is a small third bedroom currently used as an office. On the north side are two bedrooms separated by a large master bathroom with an open shower fronted by a glass panel next to the tub.

One of the standout features of the property is the amount of yard space. The deep backyard has a canopy tree for shade and line of shrubs that form a green buffer from nearby homes.

Photos: West Hollywood Craftsman

Yang and Morishita draw their design ideas not from the world of real estate, but from the theater. Yang, an actor and playwright, starred in the original Broadway production of "Miss Saigon" when he was 20 and in 1995 performed in the opera "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" at the Met in New York. Morishita, also an actor, played key roles in national tours of "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon."

Now the two perform as a design duo. "Managing real estate is a lot like putting on a show," Yang says. "You create an experience for people."

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, send high-resolution, un-retouched color photos on a CD, written permission from the photographer to publish the images and a description of the house to Lauren Beale, Business, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Send questions to

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