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Weekend Spotlight: Park McDonald Renovate an Iconic Midcentury House


Weekend Spotlight: Park McDonald Renovate an Iconic Midcentury House

Christine Chang Hanway May 31, 2014

We’re capping off Modest Modern week with a spotlight on the work of LA architecture firm Park McDonald, a recent addition to the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory. Founded by husband-and-wife team Alice Park and Michael McDonald, this young Los Angeles firm has a penchant for renovating, restoring, and reviving midcentury houses with great sensitivity and care (Frank Lloyd Wright fans, take note of the firm’s renovation of the Millard House). With three historic remodels under their belt and another under construction, the firm feels fortunate to be living in a hotbed of notable modernist architecture. “Our clients are very passionate about design and appreciate what we have here in LA,” says McDonald.

This weekend, we tour Park McDonald’s renovation of the Schaffer Residence, designed in 1948 by John Lautner, one of the most important and influential architects of the 20th century. The house, like many of Lautner’s designs, has star quality in the Hollywood sense as well: post renovation it gained new fame as the setting for Tom Ford’s visually memorable film A Single Man starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. “Our clients were interested in maintaining the integrity of the design,” says McDonald. “The house had changed owners several times since it belonged to the Schaeffers; we helped to bring it back to its original state by introducing a more suitable color palette and complementary furniture.” 

Photographs courtesy of Joe Fletcher from Ranch Houses: Living the California Dream, a Rizzoli book written by David Weingarten and Lucia Howard, and photographed by Joe Fletcher.

Above: The house is in the Montrose area of Glendale, California, on a heavily wooded site that is visible through the glassed-in ceiling of the dining room. The vintage dining table and chairs are Jean Prouvé designs, and the wood stools are by Charlotte Perriand. 

Above: The two-bedroom, two-bathroom house is a wood-framed construction with some brick walls. It’s 1,700 square feet and has an attached two-car carport.  

Above: The indoor/outdoor qualities of Southern Californian living are enhanced by large pivot doors. Concrete floors run throughout the house and extend outside. 

Above: In the living room, the sofa, chair, and stools are by George Nakashima and are upholstered in Pierre Frey fabric. The rug is from Lost & Found in Los Angeles.

Above: “We were not so concerned about replicating the original furnishings of the house,” Park says. “Our main goal was to have the furniture complement the space, to become a part of the whole. And when sourcing textiles, we looked for fabrics that would blend in with the house rather than stand out.”

Above: Daylight washes down the redwood paneling of the living room’s feature wall, now newly refinished down to the rock garden at its base.

Above: A view from the living room across the open space to the dining room highlights the multi-layered and richly textured materials of the wood, brick, and glass construction.

Above: The redwood paneling runs throughout the house, including in the bedrooms.  

Above: The extensive use of glass throughout is on full display in a bedroom with an original built-in desk.

Above:  The Schaffer family originally used the property for picnics under the large oak trees, and later decided they wanted to live there permanently. Lautner designed the house around the existing oaks.

Julianne Moore is a design aficionado herself, and the owner of one of our favorite kitchens: see Behind the Scenes: 5 Design Lessons from Julianne Moore and the Remodelista book. And if you have a weakness for pivot doors, see Architect Visit: Pivot Door Roundup for more. For more on the house’s Hollywood credentials, see A Singular Man in a Singular Home. On Gardenista have a look at 10 Landscapes Designed Around a Single Tree.

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