Magazine article Sunset

Little House, Big Ideas

Magazine article Sunset

Little House, Big Ideas

Article excerpt

HOW THE WEST IS LIVING

An uncluttered look and wide-open outdoor access make a 1,375-squarefoot home live large

Perched comfortably on one of the many concrete steps that cascade from the living room to the front patio, Cheryl Erramouspe soaks in the sunlight and fresh air. Her four-year-old, Justyn, who has discovered that a bamboo stalk from the garden makes a remarkably good sword, runs from inside to out, making full use of the room. "Our house feels like a vacation home," says Cheryl, whose relaxed natural style belies the fact that she's a busy career woman-after seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps, she is a technical evaluator for the EA.A. Her husband, Matthew, a lawyer in Century City, also works long hours; tonight he won't be home until after 9 P.M.

Despite their frenetic lives, Cheryl and Matthew find time to relax with their son. The deliberate simplicity of their 1,375-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath house helps them do it.

A year and a half ago, Cheryl circled an ad in the paper for their home. Independently, Matthew highlighted the same ad. Living in a townhouse at the time, they were seeking something with architectural character and lots of light. The house they picked out, and purchased several days later, had been remodeled on a speculative basis by developer Jill Soffer. While having all the benefits of being small-easy to clean and simple to maintain-the home feels remarkably large. It's flooded with sunlight and breezes, has a flowing floor plan, and opens in many places to the outdoors.

"The living room is the room I enjoy the most," says Cheryl, then quickly adds, "if I am home alone." Matthew and Justyn often commandeer the living room, so Cheryl retreats to a quiet patio off the master bedroom, where she can listen to music or read the paper and sip her coffee.

Subtle changes

The home was once an architectural disaster: dark and claustrophobic, with awkward, poorly linked rooms and an unusable yard. The design team, which included Soffer, architects Michael Sant and Jason Teague, landscape architect Russell Cletta, and landscape designer Jay Griffith, transformed the house without changing the footprint and with minimal relocation of walls. They subtly altered the proportions of the major rooms to accommodate furniture and circulation more comfortably, which meant extending a wall here, repositioning a window for additional light there, and using sets of French doors to open corners to the garden.

The changes extended into the landscape. Originally flat, with steps leading abruptly up to the front door, it was regraded to make a more gradual transition between house and street and between indoors and outdoors. The use of carefully layered screening elements-such as a concrete fence, a hedge, bamboo, and trees-creates a sense of separation and privacy that is unexpected given the home's location on a busy corner lot. The design provides a place for Cheryl and Matthew to entertain outdoors and a safe place for justyn to play. …

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