A Family Survives Quarantine—and a Craftsman Remodel—by Putting Some English on It
A family-friendly remodel of a century-old Craftsman yields a California-British mash-up perfect for hunkering down.
On a not unbusy street in Los Angeles on any given afternoon, if you listen carefully, beneath the thrum of traffic you might hear the ping of a kickball, the woosh of wheels on a skateboard ramp, or kids laughing and bouncing on a trampoline.
When Anna Lodder first walked through the doors of a recently flipped Craftsman, creating a haven big enough to contain all that life and ruckus and beautiful noise was front and center in her mind. She just didn’t know it would serve her so well in the future during the lockdown days of the pandemic. Situated on a cutthrough street, the house had sat on the market for months, unloved, but with so much potential. It had the solid construction you can only find in a 100-year-old house, a turret in the converted attic with views of palm trees in the distance, and an expanse of scraggly lawn in the back begging for something to make it come alive.
Anna, her husband, Doug, and her children, Lucy and Winston, had been living in a tidy bungalow not far away that strained a bit at the seams when extended family, and the occasional rescue dog, came to stay. To accommodate her generous open-door policy, Anna had converted the bungalow’s one-car garage into a multi-use guest house, but when calendars clashed, guests (and dogs) would compete for a spot on the living room couch.
With dreams of scaling up this cozy commune, Anna and Doug bought the house and set about adding the elements that would make the Craftsman a more expansive retreat. Anna had been born in England and would return every summer. Childhood memories of visiting relatives’ well-tended but relaxed gardens in the verdant south of England informed her remodel. Anna added little details that channeled Britishness without being twee: a wooden laundry drying rack with pullies in the kids’ bathroom; a scaled-up version of a scullery, complete with her grandma’s old copper tea kettle; and cabinetry with the look of bespoke Plain English built-ins, but without the premium price. Anna’s inspiration wasn’t Instagram but rather actual photographs of her family’s kitchens back in the U.K.
It’s the backyard where nostalgia and balmy Los Angeles coalesce. They put in a pool and built a guest house, this time with a kitchen and sleeping loft to house more guests. Anna hired Nick Dean, an English-born landscape designer, and gave him a fantasy muse as inspiration: “I told him I want my aunt’s British garden who regularly visits the south of France.” She ringed the pool with benches for sitting and lavender to scent the breeze and attract pollinators.
And for two years, exchange students, parents, and friends filled those benches and swam in that pool. Then the pandemic arrived, and they hunkered down, Doug and Anna taking turns working out back or up in the turret, a babbling fountain blending with the splash of the kids working off Zoom school in the pool. And if you listen very carefully you’ll hear the thrum of the city underneath the beautiful noise of life in the backyard.
Check out the latest issue of Sunset in our app or on newsstands to see the full spread and more images from the family’s remodel.
From the 2021 Gardening Issue
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