Thomas J. Story

A family-friendly remodel of a century-old Craftsman yields a California-British mash-up perfect for hunkering down.

Hugh Garvey  – March 31, 2021

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.

english accents print april/may 2021
The guest cottage pictured here echoes the English aesthetic.

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.

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The gazebo at the back is big enough for ten people to congregate—or the entire family to stretch out and nap on a lazy weekend day. It’s a true outdoor living room.

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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