This Laurel Canyon Cottage Was Cramped and Dark. Now It’s a Haven of Light and Space.
Los Angeles architecture firm Assembledge had a vision for this Laurel Canyon cottage that preserved the original structure—no tear-down required.
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Laurel Canyon is one of those storied L.A. neighborhoods that you may think you know everything about. But local architect David Thompson of Assembledge, who re-designed this family home, loves the area for reasons that have nothing to do with Joni Mitchell or Jim Morrison.
“The Wonderland Park Avenue community in Laurel Canyon, where this house is located, was developed around these ideals of integration, tolerance, community, and progressive politics,” Thompson explains. “Garrett Eckbo created the master plan for the community. You couldn’t sell a house to Black or Asian people in certain neighborhoods, and this community was pushing the message of inclusion. It’s neat ground for this house to stand on.”
When tasked with the job of updating a 1956 single-story house, which was largely untouched except for updates to the kitchen and bathrooms, Thompson made it a priority to keep the original structure semi-intact. The grounding principles for this project: Add lots of glass, and create an indoor/outdoor living experience that felt more expansive, not closed in by the surrounding trees and hillside.
The house was kind of divided into two sections, Thompson explains. One area for the family bedrooms, and another for the kitchen, living, and dining space. They left the façade and the floor plan of the left side of the house, which is where the children’s bedrooms are located, intact. But the other side was completely transformed by adding massive glass sliders, re-working the kitchen, and creating a primary bedroom, bath, and sitting area on the second floor.
Large square ceramic tiles have the feel of cement, and help to unify the indoor and outdoor living spaces. And a skylight that runs through the connection between the old and new areas of the house adds an interesting architectural detail, and space for the sun to break through.
By adding skylights and large windows, Thompson filled the house with light and a real sense of flow between the rooms. From the front of the house, you can look into a window and see all the way through to the backyard and pool area.
Thompson allowed for some of the red cedar siding to peek into the interior, which you can see in the kitchen and dining room. The fireplace in the living room was refinished with slate gray Venetian plaster. And plenty of built-ins throughout the house give it a streamlined, unfussy look. A first floor powder room designed by Susan Mitnick uses a stunning piece of dark marble as a countertop, and sculptural vertical raw brass sconces.
The real focal point of the remodel is the suite above the garage, where a large shelving-lined sitting area is filled with comfortable cushions and pillows. To look out the windows, you’d think you were on a hilltop somewhere far away from the heart of Los Angeles.
“It’s supposed to feel like a treehouse,” Thompson says. “When you look out the window from the bedroom and the sitting area, you’re surrounded by eucalyptus.”
Designer Vanessa Alexander, a long-time friend of the homeowners, furnished the house in a palette of deep neutrals, with vintage and antique chairs, custom sofas, and rugs from Mehraban in Los Angeles.
The home owners’ impressive art collection, which includes works by Ed Moses and Ramsey Dau, adds visual interest to otherwise white walls.
The result is what Thompson describes as a “seamless blur” between indoor outdoor living, and a sophisticated but comfortable family home, tucked away in the canyon woodlands.