The listing read something like “adorable fixer-upper,” but the 1890s house hidden in the middle of a block in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles barely qualified as habitable. There was no heat, no insulation, no foundation. The bathroom floor was a few layers of linoleum over dirt, and holes in the walls were patched with cardboard. “It had been built by a family of adventurous—or desperate—pumpkin farmers on the outskirts of what was then the city,” says Alexandra Angle, an interior designer who back then (2009) was living in downtown L.A. with her husband, Eliot, and their baby daughter.
The house was small—just 900 square feet—but the yard, covered in cinder blocks and tile, did have a handful of old citrus trees and a grape arbor, and the whole property was shielded from the street by a neighboring duplex. “We’d just adopted our daughter, so we wanted the feeling of a real neighborhood, but also some privacy,” Alexandra says. “The inspectors said we were crazy, but we went for it anyway.”
“Given how small our indoor living spaces are, we tried to make outdoor living spaces,” Alexandra says. With the cinder blocks and tile ripped out, the yard is now home to a grapefruit, a persimmon, and three kinds of orange trees; a California oak; jasmine and bougainvillea; and lots of bamboo and ferns—as well as an outdoor living room, a dining room, and a tub.