Magazine article Sunset

What If We Blow the Lid Off.That Idea Put a Bright Atrium Garden Right in the Center of This 1953 North Hollywood Tract House

Magazine article Sunset

What If We Blow the Lid Off.That Idea Put a Bright Atrium Garden Right in the Center of This 1953 North Hollywood Tract House

Article excerpt

What if we blow the lid off . . .

Dream house to a generation of postwar families, the compact 1950s tract house is still a lifesaver for people seeking to buy in Los Angeles' high-priced housing market. Architect Robert Anderson and his wife, Susan, chose this 1953 North Hollywood model--knowing they had to improve ventilation, natural lighting, and circulation.

They accomplished all three by blowing the lid off the original master bedroom to create an atrium in the center of the house. Total cost was around $15,000, since they did much of the work themselves.

Anderson removed the living room's rear wall, replaced it with a header beam, and extended the room 4 feet into the former bedroom space. The new master bedroom replaces a covered concrete patio.

The remaining 10 by 11 feet of the old bedroom became the atrium. Anderson tore out the ceiling to expose joists and rafters. After removing the 2-by-6 floor joists, he recycled them: he nailed on corrugated redwood strips, then mounted these joists crosswise atop the rafters to support translucent fiberglass panels. The 2-by-6s raise the fiberglass above the surrounding roof, creating open ventilation strips at each end; Anderson filled these with window screen.

With the floor removed, he built a walkway between living room and bedroom and added wide steps down into the former crawl space, using concrete blocks surfaced with scavenged bricks. New French doors open the atrium wide to the living room; a second-hand mullioned door and windows provide access and light to the bedroom. …

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