Small Lot, Big Deal

L.A.-based Heyday Partnership bets on a new form of Angeleno housing

Architecture Development Studio Visit West
Heyday Partnerhip's Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)
Heyday Partnerhip's Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Heyday Partnership’s offices are located in a 1908 mercantile structure in Los Angeles’s Arts District that doubles as the storefront for the fictitious Paddy’s Pub in the television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There, at the end of a long hallway tucked behind the recognizable building, brothers Kevin and Hardy Wronske spend their days designing homes in a post-industrial, daylit hangar filled with study models and custom-made furniture.

Their firm, founded in 2001, has quietly churned out projects across Los Angeles that exploit the city’s “small-lot subdivision” ordinance, a tweak to the zoning code made in 2005 allowing existing single family lots to be subdivided into smaller parcels, developed, and then sold off as traditional, freestanding homes. Small lot homes are helping to fill in L.A.’s “missing middle” housing by packing many residential units onto infill lots in some of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods. The small lot arrangement, however, considered too timid by die-hard urbanists and a complete affront to neighborhood character by suburban-leaning luddites, has struggled with unpopularity among the media and general population since its inception. As a younger, open-minded cadre of thoughtful designers like Heyday begin to emphasize the architectural potential of this real estate model, will a new form of vernacular Angeleno housing take root?

(Nico Marques)

Heyday Partnership’s Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Heyday’s business model is betting on it. It’s actually pretty simple: Kevin, a licensed architect trained at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and his team design the houses while Hardy, a graduate of University of Southern California Price’s Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development, acts as developer and manages the construction of each project. The brothers have a revolving fund set up that pumps money from recently completed projects into new endeavors, creating a closed loop of design, development, and construction.

Projects like the firm’s Auburn and Rennie homes, two recently completed developments, are typical of Heyday’s body of work in that they operate comfortably at the intersection of L.A.’s zoning code and high design, shaped alike by mundane setbacks and delineated by obviously modernist tropes. Further, these projects, sleek as they might appear, are actually totally by-the-book explorations of what is allowed by the zoning code and are expressly pursued by Heyday without requiring controversial spot-zoning or variances.

(Nico Marques)

Rennie (Courtesy Nico Marques)

(Nico Marques)

Rennie (Courtesy Nico Marques)

(Nico Marques)

Rennie (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Rennie
Venice, CA

Heyday’s Rennie is located in Venice, where ambient oceanside temperatures make outdoor living easier than in other inland parts of L.A. Heyday’s goal was to accomplish the added density without sacrificing the traditionally Californian indoor, outdoor living arrangement. “We wanted the house to feel like a typical home with pieces carved out to literally bring in the outside. The large balcony is wrapped in the exterior cladding with a large cutout that looks like it’d be a window opening but is actually just open air.” For these units, a giant glass door connects the living room to the sunken courtyard.

(Nico Marques)

Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)

(Nico Marques)

Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)

(Nico Marques)

Buzz Court (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Buzz Court
Los Angeles, CA

Buzz Court, HeyDay’s 2012 six-home, four unique floor plan complex was the first small lot development to win an American Institute of Architects award. Each home, approximately 1,600 square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, has LEED Platinum rating and features a six-turn interior-driving path
linking the homes along the ground level. Kevin describes the project as being “rooted in figuring out how to have double loaded parking on a site only wide enough for single loaded parking. The solution was to rotate the garages so the backup space could overlap and then connect all the units with a serpentine driveway.” A secondary result of this arrangement is an increase in the 
number of exterior walls being available for day-lighting and ventilation so that units have windows on three sides instead of two, as would traditionally be the case on such a tight urban lot.

(Nico Marques)

Auburn (Courtesy Nico Marques)

(Nico Marques)

Auburn (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Auburn
Los Angeles, CA

The firm’s most recently completed project, Auburn, is a six-home complex featuring three floor plan types, each with 1,650 square feet. Located up the street from Buzz Court, this project is on a through lot with entrances to the complex at either end of the long, narrow driveway connecting the patch of hillside. Kevin described the project, where he is a resident himself, as “a multi-family project wearing a single family facade. It is very L.A.—the city absolutely needs more housing and density but doesn’t want to admit to itself that the suburban dream has to evolve.” Units feature garage-level guest rooms and utilize Spanish tile accents to mark chamfered window surrounds along otherwise white stucco walls.

Everlee (Nico Marques)

Everlee (Courtesy Nico Marques)

Everlee
Los Angeles, CA

Everlee, currently under construction, utilizes a central, straight run driveway to fulfill parking requirements. Heyday organized seven units
orthogonally on either side of the driveway, 
allowing buildings on the ends to shift in geometry as they meet the more steeply angled street-edge. Expected to be completed this fall, Everlee is intended to be a family-oriented development. “I recently read that Eagle Rock is where Silver Lake hipsters move to when they have babies. While it obviously isn’t that simple, these homes are in a good school district so they’re designed with families in mind,” said Hardy. Heyday designed closets and vaulted ceilings above bathrooms as “lofted nooks and crannies to use as storage space or fort building.” The units also all have patio areas, with several containing as much as 300 square feet of outdoor space to supplement the tight site’s lack of backyards.

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