Modern Updates to Get a Midcentury Home in Los Angeles

The connection between exterior and interior is a common characteristic in the design of several midcentury modern houses. But sometimes you can have a little too much of a fantastic thing — in this instance an entrance courtyard which has been over 300 square feet. Designer Greg Crawford of Bilden retrieved most of the space for a brand new family room while simultaneously reinforcing the indoor-outdoor connection.

One way he realized this was by stretching the first floor’s 12- by 24-inch ceramic tiles outside to the entrance and the rear terrace. And for the second-floor master suite addition, the bedroom hardwood flooring continue onto the terrace as decking. “We also recessed the glass walls to the floor and the ceiling to provide as seamless a transition as possible between the inside and out,” says Crawford.

He also managed to incorporate the new second floor in a means which makes sense with the first arrangement. “I needed to balance the strong horizontal of the house with this brand new bump on top that has a more vertical thrust,” he says.

Here’s how he did all of the while maintaining the 1953 house’s basic footprint.

at a Glance
Who lives here: Two, one of them a composer and performer, and their two children
Location: Rustic Canyon (between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades), California
Size: 3,400 square feet; 3 bedrooms, 4 baths, music studio
That’s interesting: The canyon is so temperate that, despite being in Southern California, the house has no air conditioning.


The house’s perimeter is composed of 4- by 16-inch concrete blocks. “It’s almost like a walled city,” says Crawford. He added a gate made of reclaimed redwood to enclose the new entrance courtyard.

The second-floor master suite, found on the right, was deliberately resigned in the courtyard, in addition to the rear and sides of the home. “I wanted to respect the boundaries of the house,” says Crawford. “So I kept it rather diminutive in scale, in both plan and elevation, so it made sense and looked like it was there.”


The entrance courtyard’s roof, also made of reclaimed redwood, includes an oculus which lets in light and offers a view of their pine trees.


A medium-textured stucco encircles front door. “This created a neutral playing field between the redwood and concrete blocks and made it simpler to incorporate the upstairs and downstairs,” says Crawford

While midcentury in atmosphere, front door is new. The designer explains the carpenter “did surgery” on a normal wood slab doorway and then inserted the glass panels; those panels are from Crestview in Austin, Texas.


While the clerestory windows feel unique into the house, they have been inserted when a large portion of the living room–dining room was recovered from the former entrance courtyard.

A variety of things — books, documents, CDs and speakers — are concealed in the walnut unit, which has a ventless gel fireplace covered in a piece of stainless steel. “We sanded and patinated the steel a bit to allow it to fade into the wood a little more rather than standing out as cold, gray steel,” says Crawford.

When you open the sliding doors on each side of the inside courtyard, seen in the rear, you are able to walk from the family room to the exterior and then to the living area.


The walnut employed in the family room continues in the kitchen. The tall appliances — a freezer, refrigerator and full-height wine fridge — are covered in walnut Thermador columns. Crawford set up an undercounter microwave so the only real grain exposed is the Thermador range with its hood. “It gives the feeling that you are in a family room over a kitchen,” says Crawford.

The staircase lead up to the second-floor master suite.


“The stairs are kind of a lantern that draws light inside that side of the house, pouring it into the kitchen, making the upstairs and downstairs feel more connected,” says the designer. The frosted glass goes to a height of 5 feet so the homeowners don’t feel exposed to the road.

The lantern has LED lights that change colour at night. “It’s very subtle,” says Crawford, “and permits you to experience the distance as a transitional piece between the two degrees of the house.”

The stair treads are mengaris, a type of red mahogany.


The living area has glass on two sides — a large advantage, Crawford says. “The most important thing here was to be silent and nicely detailed, and permit the space to extrude into the courtyard on one side and onto the backyard terrace on the other,” he says.

He also paid close attention to details like the way the draperies are recessed into the ceiling and the way the glass is recessed into the floor and walls. “We also gave thought to the way the light has been handled,” says Crawford. “At night when you turn on the lights in the room, the terrace lights also come on. It really reduces the impact of the glass at night and reinforces the transparency.”

Additionally, all of the downlights are flush with the ceiling and don’t have trimming. “The ceiling is part of the expertise of the distance,” says Crawford. “It again makes the room as silent as possible and reinforces the outside connection.”


The master bedroom overlooks the backyard. Crawford says the wood on the ceiling and behind the bed ties the house in together with the naturalist tenets of midcentury structure. In addition, he thought that because the house can be found in such a verdant, overgrown canyon, a certain amount of “cabin-ness” has been proper.

“To some people’s eyes, the downstairs may be overly clean and austere, but we tried to keep your eye on that, so the master bedroom has a retreat feel,” says Crawford. “We did not need it to all be dipped in redwood, or so the cabinetry is white lacquer and the master bathroom is quite bright and light.”


The master bathroom includes a limestone flooring and floating lacquer dressing table. The window over the bathtub overlooks the lantern, which permits light to flow in from the exterior.

Tub: Wetstyle; bathtub fixtures: cupboard: Rojas Fabrications


The pool has been replastered and revived. Formerly it had 5 feet of concrete about it on all four sides. Crawford cut the slabs and used them for garden walls across the backyard. The interior’s porcelain tiles carry out into the deck and measures. Orange tiles provide a colour punch against the stucco.

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