Magazine article Sunset

Open Door Policy: An L.A. Remodel Uncovers the Secret to Small-Space Living

Magazine article Sunset

Open Door Policy: An L.A. Remodel Uncovers the Secret to Small-Space Living

Article excerpt

Most potential buyers looked at the small, rotting, Spanish-style house and saw big headaches. John Jennings and Sasha Tarnopolsky saw design freedom. "We lived next door in a Craftsman-style home that had so much original detail, we felt we couldn't alter it," says Jennings, a designer. "This house had deteriorated to the point that it had to be changed. We thought it was a great opportunity."

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The house is just 1,100 square feet, but Jennings and Tarnopolsky, a landscape architect, decided against a significant expansion. "We were tempted to add square footage," says Jennings. "But two things limited us: our budget and our desire to preserve the large back garden." To make the house work for a family (including baby Josephine and two rambunctious dogs), the couple made the most of the interior space by beefing up storage and opening it to the front and the backyard.

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Originally, the home had only two exterior doors--one in the front and one on the side. Now there are seven sets of doors--four in the front, two at the back, and one on the side. All are framed glass, brightening the interior while making the yard accessible. Two of the front doors are Dutch: One acts as a pass-through from the kitchen, the other opens the living room to a dining patio. "People never use their front yard, and it's such a waste," says Tarnopolsky. "We eat on the front patio a lot. It's amazing how much of a connection it's given us to the neighborhood. People stop by and chat or say hello."

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At the rear, both bedrooms open onto a new deck made of Ipe wood. Set three steps above the lawn, the deck is a private backyard retreat that creates a graceful transition to the garden. Light now flows unobstructed through the house, allowing a view from front to back.

Super-size storage

Jennings and Tarnopolsky say a major key to living small is adequate storage. "We studied our closets and made the most of them," Jennings says, "by installing metal closet systems from the Container Store (www.containerstore.com or 800/786-7315). We also put in large, simple shelves in the bedrooms. It keeps the house uncluttered." A small ledge built into the wall under a living room window is perfect for displaying photos but can be cleared to make a narrow bench when the family entertains.

In the baby's room, Tarnopolsky drew on her gardening background for storage inspiration. …

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