An East LA Renovation Uses a Neighboring Icon to Up Its Architectural Game

Aejie describes their eastside corner of the city as “quintessentially Southern Californian,” with an architectural and individual mix of neighbors who are casually surrounded by sun-dappled beauty. Erin is a design publicist and Mel is a screenwriter and filmmaker; they share this home with their young daughter and dog. The couple had already accomplished some fortuitous landscaping with help from Plot Design LA—who trimmed mature bamboo on the edges of their lot to provide views of the historic Neutra VDL House—before they hired Aejie to do the same careful snips and confident chops to their bungalow beyond. “They wanted it to feel relaxed and pared back,” Aejie says. “And they knew that impactful and thoughtful moves would give them as much as they could get.”

The property was built in 1946, but a renovation that took place some 30 years later stripped it of much of its character. A stucco exterior with a hipped roof lead to a handful of walled-in spaces, with a small kitchen on one end and cramped bedrooms on the other. “The bedrooms didn’t have any privacy because their doors opened directly into the living room,” Aejie remembers. “There was no connection to the rear yard from the common areas, and the yard felt dark and claustrophobic because it was covered by a roof between the house and the garage.” Meanwhile, the front yard was too exposed to the sun and the neighborhood, making it easy for passersby to see inside.

They wanted the home to feel “bright and warm with lots of natural light,” Aejie says, and for the kitchen to be its comfortable hub. A mix of plywood and white features play off the sunlight from the picture window.

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