Before and After: A 720-Square-Foot House Untouched for Decades Got an Incredible Remodel
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Name: Isabelle Dahlin, husband Brandon Boudet, and two boxers, Hank and Lou
Location: Cypress Park — Northeast Los Angeles, California
Size: 720 square feet
Type of Home: Craftsman style home built in 1923
Years lived in: 1 year, owned
I found this house out on a drive one day as my interior design studio is nearby. The neighborhood has a very quiet, family kind of vibe, and this street is lined with identical 1920s Craftsman-style houses on either side, which is really charming. The house had not been updated for decades and everyone thought we were crazy to buy it but I could see it had great bones. After 13 odd years of living in our previous house, I was looking for a new project and this was something I could really sink my teeth into.
We love entertaining and as the house is small, we put a lot of focus and energy into the garden and landscaping. Brandon is a chef so he created an outdoor kitchen with a commercial restaurant work table, camping stove, BBQ, and pizza oven, while I worked on designing different areas for friends to gather for drinks and dinner. One of the perks of living in SoCal is the weather, so we spend a lot of time out here. We were also very lucky in that the yard had four mature fruit trees so we have oranges and lemons galore. Right now the orange tree is blossoming so the garden smells divine.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I grew up in Sweden and am very influenced by Swedish design. My style is very eclectic — I like to mix mid-century pieces with antiques and textiles that I pick up at auctions, flea markets, and on shopping trips to Europe, Central America, and North Africa. I live by the Swedish philosophy of Lagom, which means “just enough” or “perfect-simple.” I don’t like spaces that are overly stimulating or overly minimalist but feel balanced.
Inspiration: The inspiration was my grandparents’ house in Northern Sweden. Most Swedish cottages are painted a traditional Falu red, but my grandparents were rather avant garde and painted theirs black with a green trim. The color scheme for the exterior of the house and the guesthouse was inspired by memories of summers spent there.
Favorite Element: The freestanding claw foot tub and cast iron gas burning stove in the guesthouse. It’s like our own private spa sanctuary. I spend a lot of time soaking in there.
Biggest Challenge: We knew the place was going to be a total fixer-upper. The house was very dark and dingy so we also ended up opening up the ceilings to expose the original beams and put in skylight windows, which completely transformed the place. We also had to put in a new foundation, which we did not expect.
Proudest DIY: To make the most of the large backyard, we built a deck off the back of the house. This extended the living situation area by 200 square feet basically as we are always hanging out there. We created a large wraparound built-in bench and got a firepit for chilly nights. It’s my favorite breakfast spot as the sun hits there in the morning and the dogs love it too.
Biggest Indulgence: The bathroom was a big indulgence. We put in heated floors and a steam shower. I hate being cold and the air can be very dry here in Los Angeles so it’s a lifesaver. It was absolutely worth it.
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? As a designer I spend so much time perfecting my clients’ homes that my own home ends up becoming a never-ending work in progress. The bedroom for example is still not finished. The room was originally a sort of sun room and it’s taken the longest to figure out. I’ve already painted and repainted it several times and put up and taken down a few different wallpapers. A perk of the job is that I can keep redoing it I suppose!
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? Brandon loves his gadgets and bought a Roccbox portable pizza oven for the outdoor deck, which we have been using nonstop. As we are also constantly cleaning pet hair off of the furniture so this DELOMO Pet Hair Remover Roller sees a lot of action.
One of my favorite pieces of furniture is the antique corner cabinet in the dining room. I found it at an auction and it has a Gustavian feel, which makes me think of Sweden. We use it to keep our glassware and Brandon’s collection of vintage cookbooks. And now that I have the bathtub of my dreams I have been buying a lot of different bath salts — I love Pursoma’s Sleeping + Dreaming Dreamcatcher bath treatment and French Girl Rose Sea Soak Calming Bath Salts.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Built-in seating is a great design hack when you are working with a small space. Rather than try to find the perfect sofa we built an L-shaped bench to make the most of the living room area. There is also storage underneath so it’s super practical.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Lighting is everything. Growing up in Sweden where it is dark half the year has made me obsessed with bringing light into my homes. I like to mix lots of vintage Danish pottery table lamps (which I collect) and mid-century standing lamps with rustic chandeliers and industrial pendant ceiling lamps so I can achieve the perfect mood lighting at every time of day.
PAINT & COLORS
- Main house exterior — Benjamin Moore “Swiss Coffee”
- Main house exterior trim — Benjamin Moore “Green Bay”
- Main house interior — Benjamin Moore “Simply White”
- Main house interior trim — Benjamin Moore “Mallard Green“
- Main house kitchen cabinets — Benjamin Moore “Salamander”
- Main house bathroom cabinets — Farrow & Ball “Hague Blue”
- Guesthouse exterior — Benjamin Moore “Essex Green”
- Guesthouse trim — Benjamin Moore “Green Bay”
- Guesthouse kitchenette cabinets — Farrow & Ball “Hague Blue“
- Astraea Vintage Vinyl Mat — Spicher and Co
GUESTHOUSE MAIN ROOM
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.
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