While the popular image of Los Angeles is often that of Bel Air mansions and ocean-side surf towns, the heart of the city is more accurately characterized by long rows of small single-family bungalows. When L.A.-based Sharif, Lynch: Architecture took on a project to transform one of these ubiquitous structures into a multigenerational home, the firm looked to the ideas of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, such as “ugly and ordinary” from Learning from Las Vegas, to guide the nature of the project.

“I suppose it’s a paradox—wanting the house to both appear as a thing and disappear at the same time—to be self-consciously un-self-conscious,” explained Mohamed Sharif, partner at Sharif, Lynch: Architecture, about the project’s balance of design and restraint.

The 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home in the quiet Mar Vista neighborhood started out as a typical bungalow. By removing the rear of the home, and building a new two-story “L” addition, the project is able to accommodate a completely new lifestyle. The house now accommodates a family with three sons, ranging in age from pre-K to high school, and a mother-in-law flat.

The addition also provided a chance to brighten and integrate the interior, which like most California bungalows can be dark with small spaces. With an eye on a tight budget, spaces are adorned in mostly off-the-shelf details, and a clean white palette is used throughout. Rather than focusing on expensive materials and finishes, the firm let the large architectural moves become the driving force behind decisions. Each decision was made with light, fresh air, and a connection to the large outdoor patio in mind. The position and size of the windows, in particular, provide delineation among all of the spaces.

The back of the house extension fully embraces the warm Los Angeles climate by expanding the interior of the house to the outside. (Taiyo Watanabe)

“The relationship between the two realms is the spatial engine of the house,” said Sharif. “Axially placed openings provide framed views that give the spatial sequence a sense of hierarchy, while diagonally placed openings set up successions of the incidental, of episodes that activate deeper peripheral and lateral perception of the broader context.”

Sharif, Lynch’s addition exudes Southern California; with its sun-worshiping interior and its simple bungalow front, the home transcends its original typology, while maintaining its classic charm.

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