Modern Living in a Traditional Home

Traditional architecture is often rich with familiar shapes and handcrafted details, yet sometimes it does not expedite our busy 21st Century lifestyles. One favorite design challenge addresses this dilemma: integrating contemporary solutions with classical forms. Imaginative design features make for memorable family rituals, learning, growing, respite and entertaining. We asked our team to share some of their favorite modern interpretations of traditional architecture within recent projects.

In a Mediterranean Revival renovation in Hancock Park, Senior Project Manager Kelly Becker transformed the function of historic rooms, including the kitchen and study. “In many homes built at the beginning of the 20th Century, the kitchen was considered a service area run by staff; and this purpose was reflected by its typically small size and modest finishes,” explains Kelly. But today, kitchens are gathering spaces for family and friends. Here, the kitchen was reimagined as the command-central with connection to a new breakfast and family room. Fine yet durable finishes add authentic detail to today’s tools, and will last for years to come.

“We also converted the existing study into a new media room by integrating a TV and sound system into the original historic paneling. The arched top niches now hold the speakers, which are concealed with period-appropriate custom screen covers,” shares Kelly.

A 3-D rendering of the new open-concept kitchen and family room. Existing historic windows were salvaged and relocated.
Elevation of the media room, which was formerly the study. The TV and sound system were integrated into the historic paneling.

A renovation and addition to a soon-to-be Landmarked 1913 Four Square house in Santa Monica provided Senior Project Manager Ari Engelman with a complex assignment. “The owner preferred a contemporary aesthetic, but we also needed to respect the existing home due to its Landmarked status. Following the National Park Standards for historic structures, we had to ensure the additions were discernible from the original structure. We took inspiration from 1930s architecture and selected large steel windows and doors to be the main feature of a new sunroom and interior stair/extended living space,” notes Ari.

The new sunroom addition (right) features steel windows and doors.

While designing a renovation to an Atherton, CA residence, Senior Project Manager Korey Kromm reimagined the purposes of several existing spaces to better suit a family’s needs. “We enclosed a portion of the original covered porch with glazing in order to create a new indoor/outdoor mudroom. It now connects the existing main house to the new garage. Although the porch was not originally intended to be occupied in this way, the introduction of a modern-day garage created a need for a new transitional space to the existing traditional home,” says Korey.

The new mudroom, formerly part of the porch, now connects the garage and main house.

Within the renovation scope for an historic Italian Renaissance Revival residence, a new pool bath was designed on a portion of the property that housed a pergola – which needed to be removed due to its deteriorating condition. Project Manager Katie Peterson selected this location for the pool bath to maintain the structure’s axial relationship with the main residence. “Instead of completely losing the existing pergola’s aesthetic and relationship on site, its curved form and details provided inspiration for the new structure’s design. The covered pergola-like area at the front allows for seating adjacent to the pool, and the pool bath and equipment are concealed at the rear,” Katie says.

The original pergola structure, which was removed due to deterioration.
An elevation of the new pergola structure, with pool bath and equipment concealed in the rear.
The new pool house and pool in progress.

Katie also worked on the renovation and restoration of The Jonathan Club, a historic private club in downtown Los Angeles. The barber shop, once the heartbeat of the club, saw a reduced present-day need for its many barber chairs and shoeshine stations. And, as cellphones and tablets are discouraged in the public reception areas, they needed an area for digitally-connected members. “We devised a plan to reduce the footprint of the existing barber shop and enclose the remainder, creating a new Internet lounge. Although the function has been updated, the classic aesthetic of its prior use remains,” shares Katie.

While designing a new contemporary farmhouse residence in Brentwood, Project Manager Sergio Schwark formulated a plan to conceal the home’s modern mechanical systems, including condensers and 10+ solar panels. “The home is quite visible from the street, and the homeowners plan to host frequent gatherings in the rear gardens. Hiding the technology was very important to preserve the bucolic setting,” explains Sergio. In close coordination with the project’s structural engineer, we recessed the systems within a limited area of the roof – and still allowed for a vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom below.

The home’s roof plan, which includes a recessed area for solar panels and condensers.
A section of the home illustrating the recessed roof area and tray ceiling in the master bedroom.

Project Manager Jim Coyle was presented with an assignment for a ground-up home in the Pacific Palisades: to design a traditional home with contemporary sensibilities. “The homeowner desired a traditional-looking home that referenced Nantucket and Shingle-style houses, but with a more modern floor plan,” Jim says. “The front elevation maintains a traditional form, while the plan features large open spaces including a large stair hall and open-plan kitchen/dining/family room, all of which open to the rear terrace, outdoor dining and kitchen. The rear elevation includes large steel doors and a greater amount of glazing to create a strong connection to a backyard entertainer’s paradise.”

Learn more about the stories behind our homes by reading about our completed projects.