Magazine article Sunset

Inspired by a Southern California Master

Magazine article Sunset

Inspired by a Southern California Master

Article excerpt

It's a common dilemma: how do you add a second floor to a typical low-slung, L-shaped, 1950s-era ranch house without making it seem top-heavy? These houses were designed to be expanded horizontally, not vertically. A shallow roof gable sitting on top of a two-story wall can easily look as absurd as a beanie on the head of a basketball player. And on the inside, it takes imagination and skill to link the two floors in an effective and memorable manner while forging strong ties to the garden. The trick is to find a way to unify the entire remodel--just what Venice, California, architect Marc Appleton did for owners Mark and Michele Nasatir.

The Nasatirs loved their Santa Monica neighborhood and did not want to move. But their three-bedroom, one-bath house on its tight lot was just too small for their growing family. Setbacks prevented major additions at the sides and back, so the only option was to go up. Mark recalls: "We wanted to max out the space, but we didn't want a bunker." The Nasatirs also had potentially conflicting tastes: he wanted something contemporary, and she admired a more traditional aesthetic. "Enter our muse," says Appleton, "the late Irving Gill." According to Appleton, Gill's architecture "seemed to provide the right inspiration for our appropriately ambivalent solution."

Gill was a regional modernist whose work combined contemporary and traditional qualities. He abstracted and simplified elements drawn from early California mission architecture, such as thick walls and long arcades. …

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