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Before and after: Old L.A. storybook house gets a sensitive makeover

Hollywood lodge
When Christina Craemer's client bought what was listed as a "gentleman's hunting lodge," designed by architect Robert Byrd in 1950, the client inherited a rustic wood structure and a remodeling challenge. The house, with a steep-pitched roof and weathered redwood siding, was on a two-acre hillside just a few blocks above Hollywood Boulevard, but it reminded the owner, a producer and author, of childhood summers spent in the woods near a Minnesota lake. It was straight out of a storybook.

Craemer-before-HCraemer, owner of Arc54 Studio, an interior design and fine arts firm, wanted to respect the site and the lodge's original character while upgrading the home into a contemporary two-story residence.

"It was like a tree house among these amazing California oaks, redwood trees and sycamores," she said. "But since it was built close to the hillside, the interior was very dark. The challenge was to find a way to expand the structure, make it brighter -- and retain its character."

Craemer gained more daylight for the once-gloomy living room by replacing a picture window with a custom, three-sided glass box measuring 10 feet by 6 feet, with a 24-inch-deep pop-out. Inside, the ceiling volume was pushed up to accommodate taller windows without altering the original roof proportions. Her client no longer has to hunch over to look outside at the stately sycamore tree in the front yard.

Second-story renovations added nearly 1,500 square feet to the house, so there wasn't enough original redwood siding to reclad the exterior. Instead, that siding was removed, restored and used on a backyard shed-turned-guesthouse.

Research for new siding led Craemer to a small mill near Redwood National Park, where old-growth "sinker" logs are dredged from the bottom of rivers and turned into lumber. The idea of installing the new-old boards vertically seemed logical to Craemer.

Remodeled storybook house"I wanted to reinforce a sense of the house expanding up and opening out," she said. "If I had oriented the siding horizontally, the entire structure would have felt different."

The designer used her engineering training to develop an interlocking siding system in which boards don't overlap but are installed edge-to-edge.

The quirky, asymmetrical roof reminded Craemer of something out of "Hansel and Gretel."

"It started low at the garage and swept all the way up to the top," she said. The old wood shingles could not be replaced, due to fire codes. Clay tile wasn't compatible with the lodge-like vibe. Metal seemed like a good choice, but Craemer didn't want to use conventional standing-seams. Instead, as with the siding, she created metal roof panels connected by hidden grooves. Powder-coated in anodized bronze to match the new windows and door, "the metal seamlessly interlocks and allows you to see the beauty of the many roof angles," she said.

Craemer-afterThe entry now feels welcoming, thanks to a new staircase and front porch.

Craemer-before-VAging railroad ties have given way to new floating concrete treads on a steel frame. The concrete landing is enclosed by a handrail of brushed stainless steel, replacing rickety 4-by-4-inch wood posts.

A sleek, curved concrete retaining wall supports the change in grade where an earlier wall of broken concrete and rubble once stood. While thoroughly modernized, there's something about the home's organic finishes and charming roof line that still hearkens back to Byrd's earthy, 1950s lodge.

James Magni, principal of Los Angeles-based Magni Design, with whom Craemer frequently collaborates, praised the results.

"It's difficult to keep the integrity of an older building and bring it into current times without it looking bastardized," he said. "But Christina kept the lines of the original building while also bringing it into 2012, and that's a tough thing to do."

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-- Debra Prinzing

Pre-remodel photos: Christina Craemer

Post-remodel photos: Mike Allen

 
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