Before & After: A Century-Old California Craftsman Home Gets a Stunning Modern Makeover
When a young family in Santa Monica, California, decided it was time to wholly renovate their 1903-built home located on a historic oceanfront block, architect Erik Evens was clearly the right choice for the job. The Marina Del Rey-based designer is known for adeptly integrating the old and new with residential projects that often reference historic period revival styles. "The house badly needed remodeling to bring it up to current standards,” he says. “But the bones were really extraordinary." Here's how Evens and his clients, along with interior designer Alana Homesley, brought past and present into harmony.
Honor the Old—But Welcome the New
The home stands alongside other Craftsman and transitional Victorian homes that date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—constructed as beach vacation retreats before the streets were even paved. Originally, Evens had high hopes of restoring the Crafstman gem back to its 1903 glory, but after spending time with the clients—a young family with creative careers and a growing art collection—he knew he’d have to put a fresher spin on the design. "The more we spent time with our client, the more we realized they wanted to retain the original features of the architecture — but they had a more modern and fresh outlook."
Bring the Beach Home
Given that famed Santa Monica beach is mere steps away from the house, it made sense "to make it more naturally conducive to a beach lifestyle in the modern day," Evens says. "All of the dark and chocolatey interiors that were en vogue in 1903 wouldn't do for them." Original character-defining details were kept, such as the Douglas fir floors, beautiful built-ins, leaded glass elements, wood trim, and coffered wood ceilings. But instead of sticking with the period vibe, the dark woodwork was stripped and painted white for a more contemporary feel. The firebox and chimney had to be rebuilt, too, so the heavy stone fireplace surround was swapped for serene blue ceramic tile and a new mantle.
Make a Modern Statement
The modern chandelier from Lindsey Adelman Studio's Branching collection "is a great counterpoint" to the dining room's original architectural details, like the ceilings and built-in shelving, that were retained, repaired, and bathed in a coat of white, says Evens. Behind the dining room, the stairway was entirely rebuilt, and Evens' team "created a stair hall as a buffer between the public area and the kitchen."
While open-plan kitchens with roomy islands ideal for socializing are common today, that was not the case in 1903. "These houses were really beautiful back then, but the bathrooms were substandard and kitchens were all at the back of the house," Evens says. So, "we wiped the slate clean” by opening up the existing layout and adding new but historically compatible cabinetry and vastly improved storage. The butcher block-topped island has enough space to tuck a couple stools at the end, and there's an additional cozy kitchen seating area off to the side.
Be Space Savvy
The upstairs floor plan was entirely transformed, save for the master bedroom located in the front of the house. But the room still needed a major upgrade. Evens removed a low, hard-lid ceiling to expose "all this volume. We added ceiling ties and vaulted the ceiling." To comply with local historic preservation regulations that require the view from the street to remain essentially unaltered, Evens added a new dormer containing an additional bedroom to the rear of the house, bringing the bedroom count to four total.
Create a Warm Welcome
This pocket of Santa Monica boasts a distinctly urban character, with relatively tight lots and densely planned streets that are well-scaled for pedestrians and social interactions. The residents are "a tight knit group," says Evens, and a block party takes place every Fourth of July holiday. The deep porch, an original feature, boasts a clean, airy design and contemporary, comfortable furnishings that make the space feel especially inviting.
Embrace Timeless Style
Following the renovation, "the exterior looks very much like it must have looked in 1903," Evens says. "The color is similar, maybe a little whiter. All of the detailing is the same. It retains the essential character of the house — but it's freshened up."