Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tear downs and dream homes

I read with interest this NY Times story about the trend in LA to tear down historic homes and replace them with larger, contemporary houses.

'Historic' here, of course, could mean an 1950s bungalow. While it's easy, as a Brit, to sniff about the  historic value of a sixty year old house, it's true that there are some beautiful neighbourhoods, old by LA standards, which are characterized by a conformity of housing, all built around the same time, and some really charming and quintessentially Californian styles. Like the Storybook homes in Culver City and in Hollywood, the Spanish colonial homes on the flat bits of Beverly Hills and the mid-century boxes that perch on outcrops of the Hollywood Hills.

Apparently the volume of new homes being built on the site of older ones is on the up, and these newer home bear no resemblance to their neighbors. It's a trend that's ruffling feathers in Beverly Hills.

For much of LA the historical preservation ship sailed some time ago. This passage is from Nathaniel West's The Day of the Locust, describing Depression Era Hollywood.

The same description could be used of the Strand in Hermosa Beach - although I don't think I'd describe the diverse architectural styles which rub shoulders here as 'truly monstrous'. I've posted about the bonkers patchwork of dream homes here before and sure, it's not very beautiful, but I do like the freedom of choice it represents.

Although I may not wish to create my own personal Swiss Chalet I can understand the desire to build something new and bespoke - and be damned if it doesn't match the neighbour's new and bespoke house. My dream house would be a gleaming white box, but I'd take even a 1990s 'palazzo' over a charming old beach cottage with 1920s amenities. You do see the odd run of older homes in the area and I'm glad they're still around. But I wouldn't want to live in one.
Sweet, but probably doomed
While in the UK I wouldn't have thought of remodelling extensively - that's the stuff of Grand Designs and a move to the country - here it seems less out of reach. It's not an unusual thing to do, and some of the homes we've looked at would require or at least lend themselves to a rebuild. The house we're currently eyeing up is what's known as turnkey. If we can stomach the cost, we would maybe make some cosmetic upgrades before we move in, like redoing the floor and repainting some rooms, but that's about it.

Still, the dream of finding a sweet little beach bungalow, ripping it down and building a gleaming white box in its place remains alive. That'll be the next house we buy.

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