This project modernized and expanded a modest tract home that the client had lived in for over 30 years, heightening features they appreciated and resolving long-standing frustrations with the original design. The new glass-and-steel expansion not only makes better use of the home’s small and under-utilized front lawn, it also complements the garage that previously extended awkwardly from the main structure. An ultra-low-profile butterfly wing roof replaces the old pitched one, clarifying the roofline and making space for clerestory windows without raising the house’s overall height. The new roof uses 10x100 steel I-beams to achieve a depth of just 10 inches. The new volume created room for an office, a new bedroom, two bathrooms, and a laundry room, while the butterfly roof allowed for views of the Hollywood sign—a landmark the client hadn’t realized they could see from their home. Together, the addition and garage frame a terraced rock garden inspired by karesansui, traditional Japanese landscape gardens meant to be contemplated from a single viewpoint. The keyhole cut in the roof above the garden creates a play of light and shadow that the client can enjoy as the working day draws on. Yet despite these significant transformations, the design still respects the existing structure, managing to integrate difficult-to-relocate elements in the new plan. The new design makes the most of California’s sunny climate by adding clerestory windows throughout the house. Coupled with a new open plan arrangement, these windows illuminate the spaces within, natural light reaching deep into the house. Here, we faced a spatial challenge: the existing fireplace threatened to disrupt the plan, but could not be relocated because of California code restrictions prohibiting new open wood burning fireplaces in residential projects. To overcome this, we reimagined the fireplace as a free-standing sculptural element that defines the edge of the living space. Recalling the mid-century interiors of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, the fireplace organizes movement around it, distinguishing the living space, hallway, and kitchen as separate zones. It is finished in the same basalt stone as the chimney and features linear scores that accentuate its verticality. Deep reveals emphasize the point where it meets the ceiling, articulating how the fireplace extends through the roof as a single volume. The interiors blend the rational approach of mid-century modernism with warm finishes like maple cabinetry and doors. The kitchen features custom-design integrated shelving, incorporating ample room for storage without cluttering the space. As such, we were able to turn regulatory constraints into a source of mid-century modernist inspiration—one that is further complemented by the client’s own passion for antique radios. The redesign preserves the bones of the existing structure but transforms it into an airy, modern home. The successful renovation of this modest home serves as a reminder that while the architectural community often concentrates on new technologies, new construction methods, and new builds in the quest for sustainability, we cannot overlook the potential that exists in thinking more creatively about existing resources and structures.
Tim Gorter is a licensed architect with over 20 years’ experience in the architecture and construction industries. His skill with design, programming, site analysis, strategic facility planning, and design and construction management has benefited a wide spectrum of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional clients.
Tim earned his Master of Architecture from UCLA with distinction in 2005. He has received certificates in Real Estate Development and Construction Management from the University of Southern California, and in Project Management from the California Institute of Technology. Tim is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the National Institute of Building Sciences, and the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management.