A run-down 1933 Spanish revival home in Palos Verdes is brought back to life with historical reverence and creative vision.
- Written byDiane E.
Lured by the proximity of family, the South Bay lifestyle and excellent schools, Adam and Stephanie Guggenheim decided to relocate to Palos Verdes from Westwood in 2011 with their young children, Simone and Mark, and their dogs. For Stephanie, it was a return home to the peninsula where she grew up.
The Guggenheims loved the 1920s Spanish home that they remodeled and were leaving behind on the Westside, yet they were eager to find another home in the South Bay. With the guidance of Keith Johnson of Pritzkat & Johnson Architects, who had done projects for Stephanie’s family, their search began.
“I went to several places with them to assess the potential of the homes, because they were looking at old Spanish-style properties that they wanted to fix up. The house they finally decided on was a mess and needed a lot of work,” Keith says.
Adam, who was an art history major with a graphic design background, took the lead on the project while the couple juggled caring for their kids and managing their careers at Neutrogena in Los Angeles. When asked how bad the house was when they purchased it, he exclaims, “It was so bad that some of our relatives thought it was haunted and wouldn’t come in! It was very dark inside from overgrown trees, and there was mold and asbestos everywhere.”
A great collaborative team was formed with the architectural vision of Keith Johnson and his partner, Miles Pritzkat, the construction excellence of Mar Vista-based general contractor Wayne Terry and the Guggenheims’ keen eye for detail. “We wanted to keep the history of the home alive on the exterior while bringing it up to date with some contemporary finishes on the interior,” Keith explains.
A 1920s original beehive-shaped arch (also repeated in the library)—reminiscent of Wallace Neff architecture—and the heavy, wooden front door welcome visitors to the classic, white stucco home with clay-tiled roof. Custom iron light fixtures from Steven Handelman Studios in Santa Barbara flank the door, and the original windows are adorned with new shutters that look old—inspired by the historic 1929 Spanish colonial revival Adamson house in Malibu.
Pritzkat & Johnson’s biggest architectural challenge inside was to create the desired living space within the existing walls. A portion of the roofline was modified to achieve additional vaulted spaces inside, and combining the kitchen with the dining room was a primary focus. The kitchen was completely deconstructed, the wall that separated it from the dining room was removed, and the newly raised ceiling was enhanced with wood beams to duplicate original ceilings in nearby rooms. For added living space, the adjacent back covered porch was expanded, and the bathroom sizes were increased.
Built during the Great Depression, the home’s original materials and finishes were at the same time in keeping with and in contrast with the times. “It was interesting from our standpoint to see how building was done back then. They clearly cut costs by minimalizing decorative tiles used, and yet all of the windows were steel casement, which is still expensive today,” says Miles Pritzkat.
Restoration and repurposing was at the heart of the project. The steel casement windows were refinished and preserved. Original iron light fixtures adorn the newly painted walls above refurbished walnut wood floors. Door hardware was reused, and where possible, original plaster was kept intact. Plaster detailing at door openings was repeated where seemingly forgotten in the original construction.
The kitchen, where the family now spends most of their time, was updated with contemporary materials and finishes. Stephanie was very hands-on with the design process.
“A lot of drawers and hidden storage spaces are favorites of mine,” she says. “The extra places we found to store cutting boards, trays and even school supplies are great. In a small space, every inch counts.”
His Life Woodworks in Redondo Beach masterfully crafted the new cabinetry with a sage-colored finish and milk glass that was inspired by a magazine photo the Guggenheims found. Soapstone countertops complement Calcutta marble on the island, and an Ann Sacks brick-style enhanced tile creates a timeless backsplash.
Stephanie was also very involved with the bathroom designs and chose to repeat the kitchen island’s Calcutta marble in the bathrooms. “I like the clean, fresh look of white and the organic look of real materials, and I feel like the kitchen and bathrooms are places that need white. I didn’t want too much veining, so I was very involved with the cuts and placement of the marble tiles,” she says.
In contrast to the white, the bathroom floors and main hallway boast colorful, new painted concrete tiles from Mission Tile in Santa Monica that add vibrancy, interest and old-style charm to the home.
After partial completion of the nine-month project, the Guggenheims moved in during construction. When it was finished, the remaining furnishings, rugs and collectibles from their previous residence were put into place—signifying their dream of another Spanish revival home coming true.
When asked if family members worry about the house being haunted any more, Adam wryly smiles with pride and says, “I think that it is safe now.” •