November 14, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Set against the backdrop of a verdant Los Angeles hillside minutes from downtown Beverly Hills and the bling of Rodeo Drive, this urban canyon home is perched above the road far enough away from the traffic to offer respite from the city. The house is surrounded by a garden that is not only abundant and bucolic, but also unique to the area.
When its present owners purchased the tired Benedict Canyon residence a few years ago, it needed so much work, they ended up gutting it down to the studs. “The house was a total wreck,” explained the owner. “Actually, the ‘renovation’, which took about ten months, involved demolishing the house to the foundation and building the present structure. It is essentially a new house of 1,900 square feet not including the balconies and terraces.”
In place of the existing Spanish-style house, they built a contemporary home utilizing lots of glass to bring indoors the surrounding gardens and hills. The garage originally faced the main road, so they cleverly moved the entrance and driveway to the quiet side street, adding french doors and a skylight, making it blend more with the house’s new design and also greatly enhancing the curb appeal.
Having spent years in Manhattan, when they move to California, the couple brought with them a momento of their former home: the art deco front gate from their New York City apartment, a landmarked 1930s apartment building designed by Irwin Chanin. They then commissioned a local artisan to interpret the design for the larger driveway gate.
As is always the case with renovations, there are challenges and obstacles that sometimes end up becoming opportunities. Because it was an illegal addition constructed about 40 years ago, part of what became the master bedroom had to be removed. This resulted in a terrace area off the new bedroom which now has mural painted on the former retaining walls, part of the room before the renovation. In the redesign, they recouped lost space by adding some to the front end of the bedroom.
The original house was rather dark, not just because of the deep red wall-to-wall carpeting, but also due to the lack of windows in certain areas. To bring much needed light inside, a skylight was incorporated into the stairwell and a glass brick window into the second-floor back terrace.
The new house is open to the surrounding gardens, visible through the many large glass windows on all sides. Each room enjoys views of the planted hillside.
When asked about his favorite things since the renovation, one of the owners told me, “Certainly the light, the views and the garden.”