Serendipity may not be the first word that comes to mind when considering a remodeling project. But no other word comes close to capturing the experience of Pasadena, Calif.-based HartmanBaldwin Design/Build on its renovation of a historic bungalow in Claremont, Calif., which won a 2010 Gold/Best in Show Master Design Award from Qualified Remodeler in its Historic Restoration category.
The house’s pedigree was excellent, but its condition was horrendous. Built in 1903 for Mary Reeve Darling, the house was designed by the renowned California firm Greene & Greene, famous for its “ultimate bungalows,” which are large, detailed Craftsman-style homes, such as the Gamble House in Pasadena. More than a century after its construction, however, the Darling House had suffered from poor renovations in almost every area, as well as natural wear and tear. The roof, windows and shingles had all been replaced, and much of the house’s historic character and charm had been lost.
But HartmanBaldwin Design/Build had a couple things going for it. First, the homeowner, Andrew Wright, is a prominent developer in the area who already was familiar with the firm’s design/build capabilities. He and his wife Blenda did a walk-through with the firm and asked for an expert opinion about whether the house could be simultaneously modernized and restored. Here’s where serendipity came in: By pure coincidence, the firm had recently hired a project architect, Alan Brookman, who was a longtime docent at the Gamble House and a Greene & Greene aficionado.
After conducting a feasibility study, the firm was confident the house could be updated in a historically sensitive way—an effort that would require meticulous research and historical detective work. The team also made it a priority to incorporate sustainable design elements, leading the project to become the first historic GreenPoint-rated house under California’s Build it Green program.
“The goal was not to restore it to its past state, since it was truly unlivable for a modern-day family, but to protect as much of the architecture’s integrity without sacrificing comfort, function and energy efficiency,” says Bill Baldwin, HartmanBaldwin Design/Build owner and chief executive officer. “The goal was to restore and renovate it so a future generation would have the opportunity to experience the home.”
Cues from the Past
The design/build team organized the remodel in three phases: The first involved the construction of a new garage and studio to complement the main house without sacrificing views of the property from the street. The second phase was the complete house renovation, including a new master suite upstairs; new kitchen, laundry room and bathroom downstairs; and new shingle siding and a shake roof. The third phase involved implementing a complete landscape plan designed to maximize privacy.
In addition to the house’s deteriorated condition, its orientation on the property posed a serious challenge. Located on a corner parcel consisting of two lots, the house is set back on the rear lot, allowing no private yard space and little wiggle room for additions. One of the first decisions was to relocate the house’s original carriage house to another property to make room for a new three-car garage and studio. The garage mimics the design and scale of the original carriage house and was positioned so it naturally created more private garden space on the lot.
For the main renovation, Brookman spent many hours reviewing the home’s original blueprints, as well as other Greene & Greene houses and documentation, to understand what elements had been lost and what could be restored or re-created. “In all cases we looked to the Greenes’ work for design cues,” Brookman says.