a Sleek contemporary exterior iS highlighteD By angular mahogany wooD featureS

The hoMe’S rear eleVaTion aS Seen froM The SpaciouS BacKyard. The curVed STairWayS and cenTer Balcony haVe SerVed aS an inTiMaTe BacKdrop for TWo WeddinGS and nuMerouS parTieS.

phoToGraphy By paul JonaSon

o l d l . a . r e i n c a r n aT e d :
a m o d e r n - d ay r e m o d e l r e v i v e s T h e 1 9 2 0 s
by pamela coranTe-hansen

years ago, debra Terrell would hop into her car and drive for hours through the old neighborhoods of los angeles — Beverlywood, hancock park, cheviot hills — gazing at 1920s Spanish colonial revival homes. Stately residences with redclay roofs, wrought-iron detailing and colorful tile work seemed to call out to her, evoking a period when elegant living and superior craftsmanship were the norm in los angeles. “My whole life i’ve wanted a 1920s Spanish home,” Terrell says, “but my budget couldn’t afford a renovated original.” So she did what any sensible person would do. She called a real estate agent and gave him very specific directions. “find me a dump,” Terrell recalls. “That’s what i told him. Because what i do is i look at the bones [of a house].” an interior designer and owner of debra Terrell designs, Terrell cringes as she describes the day her agent showed her the 1949 ranch-style house in palos Verdes estates that she and her husband don would purchase and eventually turn into their dream home. The pungent smell of animal waste permeated the main living level. Some of the windows had been painted shut. But it wasn’t until she went to the backyard and looked at the rear of the house that something clicked. “i said, ‘This is it.’ The agent said, ‘are you kidding me?’” Terrell recounts. The back elevation of the home boasts a spacious massing that is not at all apparent

from the modest proportions of the front of the house. having spent countless hours poring over stacks of coffee table books on Spanish colonial revival homes, Terrell saw the potential for a rebuilt revival-style house that precisely mirrored its 1920s counterparts. To make her vision a reality, Terrell turned to architect Miles pritzkat of pritzkat & Johnson architects in redondo Beach. pritzkat notes that maintaining the home’s modest front elevation was a priority for Terrell. “We didn’t want it to look like a huge house in the middle of all these older homes in the neighborhood,” he says. “at the same time, we wanted to open things up to add volume.” inspired by architects George Washington Smith and Wallace neff — two pioneers of classic Spanish colonial revival style — pritzkat began drawing plans for a remodel. The goal: To recreate the typical architectural features of that period, yet avoid falling into the super-sized, 21st century Tuscan-Mediterranean mansion cliché. The result is a home so rich in subtle yet significant period detail that a visitor feels as if they’ve stepped into an exclusive resort, circa 1928. dark wood ceiling beams, graceful curved archways, narrow-plank wood floors and brilliant hand-painted tile evoke the interior flourishes of landmark Spanish colonial revival homes such as George Washington Smith’s casa del herrero (house of the Blacksmith) in Montecito

10.28.2011 | SouThBaydiGS.coM 41

a sIttIng room off the maIn entrance InvItes vIsItors to gather Informally. the doorway In the back of the room leads to the home’s orIgInal kItchen, now a mudroom.

two-hundred year old decoratIve elements grace kItchen cabInets. most applIances are hIdden behInd hand-crafted doors. antIque chandelIers add an elegant touch

In the maIn lIvIng room, perIod decoratIons and antIque furnIshIngs create an envIronment remInIscent of an elegant 1920s resort.

and the adamson house in Malibu, which is where Terrell and her husband don were married. inside, the walls are hand-finished plaster. no drywall was used in order to provide an authentic, old-world feel. pritzkat notes that no two ceilings in the home are alike. each room has a raised, vaulted ceiling or wood beams, much like traditional Spanish revival homes. and what began as a fascination with a small, 200-year-old door from an egyptian manor became an entire collection of vintage egyptian doors that now adorn virtually each room in the house. The first door, which now leads into the wine cellar, was restored by an oregon artist who also refinished the other antique doors. repurposed antiques in some of the rooms add to the sense that the home has existed for 90 or more years. What was once a peddler’s rolling trunk from indonesia now serves as a colorful vanity in a bathroom adjacent to the guest bedroom. Terrell describes her frustration at being told by various contractors that the cart could not be converted into a cabinet because it opened from the top. “i finally found someone who said he could make a door out of the front panel. he was amazing.” finding contractors and vendors who were willing to work with a home design that was anything but cookie-cutter proved to be a challenge. as an example, Terrell’s antique egyptian doors were of irregular proportions and shapes. “This means you have to build custom door frames to accommodate narrower doors or thicker, heavier doors,” pritzkat remarks. But this made hiring the right craftsmen especially sweet, and in some cases, added a colorful twist to the

character of the remodeled house. a window on the landing that leads to the home’s upper level looks out on the terra cotta tile roof. “i love looking at this roof,” don Terrell says. each tile was crafted the same way they were made centuries ago. “The roof tiles were hand-formed over the thigh of the workman,” pritzkat notes, “so each tile is slightly irregular. you could see Mexican newspapers stuck to the back of some of the tiles, because the worker would put newspaper on his leg and then mold the clay over it.” on this same landing, three striking stained glass panels bear the family crests of Terrell’s italian ancestors, husband don’s forebears, and the shield of the Scottish clan cameron, the first name of the couple’s 12-year-old son. although each panel could easily pass for an early twentieth century artifact, they were created for the home by a catholic nun who makes stained glass for churches. “it’s a very old process and she is the only person our glass vendor knew who could do it,” Terrell says. The original home’s upper wing was added in the 1970s and comprised cramped bedrooms and low ceilings. pritzkat raised the ceilings, added a master suite and bath, and converted two small bedrooms into the son’s room, also with its own bath. Both rooms enjoy a view of the lush curtain of foliage created by the eucalyptus and palm trees that line the rear perimeter of the property. “We used to live in the hollywood riviera and we had a huge view,” Terrell says. “When we moved here we had to give it up, but now we have a park-like view — i feel like i’m in a tree house.” The tree house feeling was apparent even in the original home’s tiny kitchen — now a mudroom —

which Terrell recalls had only one electrical outlet. “When we first lived here [before the remodel], we’d have friends over and i’d be here cooking. i could look out the window and see everyone down below. i’d wave to them and feel connected, even from up here.” her fondness for that time was such that she asked pritzkat to keep two tiny ventilation windows — each about the size of a standard business envelope — in the remodel. “every time i look at those little windows, i think back on our first years in this house and all the memories we created for our son.” pritzkat and Terrell agree that keeping some original features during a remodel builds positive karma and pays tribute to a home’s past. “Those touches give a home character,” pritzkat says. in addition to honoring the house itself, the Terrells and pritzkat sought to respect the integrity of the neighborhood. “We wanted to keep the proportions and not mess with the massing too much,” pritzkat notes. Sensitive to the city’s stringent building codes, the Terrells decided to seek the input of the neighborhood. “We had a ‘Whine and cheese’ party and invited the neighbors over to look at the plans,” Terrell recalls. no concerns were raised, the remodel went seamlessly, and as a bonus, the couple forged close bonds with their neighbors. it’s been a while since Terrell cruised los angeles neighborhoods staring longingly at 1920s Spanish revival homes. But her passion for the style is perhaps more intense than ever. “i tell people that i was a flapper in a past life. i relate to that time period. i’ll see old photos and i feel like i’ve been around those people.”


SouThBaydiGS.coM | 10.28.2011

hand-paInted tIles wIth custom colors selected by terrell grace the staIrway leadIng to the bedroom level and echo authentIc desIgns found In classIc 1920s and 1930s spanIsh colonIal revIval homes

an Indoor/outdoor bar was InspIred by a sImIlar desIgn feature at the adamson house In malIbu

the formal dInIng room looks out on the lush backyard folIage