Alongtime resident of Southern California, architect Douglas S. Ewing, AIA, and his wife have a love for the older sections of Los Angeles. As an accomplished architect, he also has a deep appreciation for the history of residential design, particularly those forms that first took hold in L.A. in the early part of the last century and spread elsewhere in the country.
There is no section of town that is older or more desirable than central Pasadena, nor is there a form of architecture as closely related to this town than the Craftsman style. Many Craftsman masterpieces line its older streets.
One home, in particular, situated in a very central location, had been neglected and went vacant for over a decade before Ewing and his wife entered negotiations to purchase the dilapidated Craftsman chalet. And though those negotiations did not result in a sale, as luck would have it, Ewing was recommended by the broker and brought in to completely restore the home for the eventual owners, a young family.
After more than three years of research, design and construction, Ewing completely restored the home very close to its original condition. For its efforts, the Ewing team received a preservation award from the city of Pasadena, and at the Remodeling Show last month, the architecture firm also received a Gold Award from this magazine in the category of Historic Restoration.
“To me it is symbolic of the Adirondack mountains. It is a woodsy kind of place,” says Ewing. “There are houses in the Adirondacks — a place where I have traveled extensively — that have this kind of feel. That is why I liked it.”
Researching its Origins
The home had lost many of its original features by the early 2000s, when Ewing first encountered the property. It was clearly built in the Craftsman style, but much of the exterior trim had been replaced. Very little of the trellis work in front of the house and in the yard remained. On the inside, the home’s kitchens and bathrooms had been gutted and replaced at some point during the late 1950s or early 1960s. The key for Ewing was to try to locate original plans for the house and perhaps to obtain the name of architect in the process. Unfortunately, records for the house were almost non-existent. A breakthrough did come, however, in the form of a 1920s newspaper article about the home, complete with a color lithograph of the front elevation with the caption: “Residence of Dr. F.K. Ledyard.”
The lithograph was a revelation, says Ewing. The form, location and massing of the original trellis work at the head of the driveway, across the front porch and straddling the adjacent yard and gardens brought clarity not only to the context of the building but the entire property.
Ewing and team were able to determine that the original trim and trellis materials consisted entirely of redwood logs. The bark was left on the logs giving them a “furry” appearance, says Ewing. Because redwood logs of this type simply are not available today and partly because a cleaner-looking more durable product was desired by the client and architect, varnished natural pine logs from Montana were selected as replacements. Montana pine was used to reconstruct the trellis work as well as the half-log exterior trim around all of the home’s exterior windows and doors.
“These are all natural logs selected for their character,” explains Ewing. “The original building used ‘unturned’ natural redwood logs with a thick bark on them. They were pretty ugly. We sourced these pine logs in Montana. We sent up drawings and they basically cut and trimmed most of this log work up there. Then they brought it down, erected it and fit it to the house. It took them a couple of months to do it. And it really turned out looking great.”
The 1920s newspaper image also brought to light other lost features of the home. In particular, there is a discernible porch on the second floor completely trimmed in logs and a matching railing. At some point in the home’s middle period, the room was enclosed more fully and its logs removed.