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Before & After: Architect Pat Bernatz’s Reimagined House on the Hill in East LA

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Before & After: Architect Pat Bernatz’s Reimagined House on the Hill in East LA

November 20, 2023

Architect Pat Bernatz first showed up on my radar back in 2020, when I came across his pitch-perfect, trend-proof redesign of an old Arts & Crafts-style house in Los Angeles for a client. It is among my favorite projects I’ve written about, though his latest work, on his own home, may top it.

The restoration of his 1890 house has all the hallmarks of his prior project—quiet interiors, handsome window shutters, modest proportions, natural materials, a warm palette, all interpreted in an “Old California” style—but it has the added benefit of stunning views. Perched on a hill in Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in East LA, the house was in ruins and scheduled to be torn down when Pat and his wife, Shannon, both native Californians, saw its potential and snapped up the property. They were intrigued by its architectural history (it was built in the vernacular style known as Pyramidal Victorian), enchanted by the surrounding lushness and views, and completely undaunted by the fact that it was, quite literally, a dump.

“It had been owned by the same family for over 65 years. They had been renting it out to a variety of families over the years. Sadly, it was in a serious state of neglect: no insulation, no foundation, laminate floors, acrylic windows, along with buried garbage and abandoned vehicles throughout the garden,” says Pat. “Amidst all of that we were struck by the century-old olive tree, palm and pepper trees scattered throughout the property, along with some of the original Victorian detailing and large bay window overlooking downtown and the Hollywood sign.”

After two years of sketching and planning, construction finally began. “We essentially had to demolish the previous kitchen and dining room due to structural issues. And we completely reconfigured that section of the house towards the view of the Hollywood sign and Elysian Park,” says Pat. Eighteen months later, their family of four moved into their home—now insulated, no longer crumbling, and with a cohesive design.

Below, Pat walks us through the renovation.

Photography by Yoshihiro Makino, courtesy of Bernatz Studio.

shannon gave birth to their firstborn, parker, on the first day of construction 17
Above: Shannon gave birth to their firstborn, Parker, on the first day of construction—”just in the nick of time,” says Pat, pictured here in their living room. By the time they moved in 18 months later, they had added a daughter, Inez, to their family.
pat designed the wraparound leather sectional and commissioned dusk design to f 18
Above: Pat designed the wraparound leather sectional and commissioned Dusk Design to fabricate it. “The new picture window in the living room is a great place to hang, especially when a storm comes in. It’s a wonderful cozy spot to hang with the family or watch the sunset,” he says.
both the black walnut armchair (inspired by a traditional captain&#8\2\17;s 19
Above: Both the black walnut armchair (inspired by a traditional captain’s chair) and the oak coffee table with ebonized stain were designed by Pat. (For more information on his furniture designs, go to his website.)
the view from the kitchen toward the living room. the kitchen floor is composed 20
Above: The view from the kitchen toward the living room. The kitchen floor is composed of salvaged tiles from Exquisite Surfaces.
a cork wall (from amcork) ensures that artwork, including kids&#8\2\17; art 21
Above: A cork wall (from Amcork) ensures that artwork, including kids’ art, has pride of place in the kitchen.
a warm palette in the kitchen thanks to black walnut cabinetry, woven leather s 22
Above: A warm palette in the kitchen thanks to black walnut cabinetry, woven leather stools from Swift & Monell, and red tile flooring.
&#8\2\20;i try to use colors, hues, materials that are derived from the sit 23
Above: “I try to use colors, hues, materials that are derived from the site. That includes the warmth of California sycamore, terra-cotta tiles, and plaster to complement the California light. The house and the garden are meant to feel like one, cohesive space.”
the dining area was inspired by &#8\2\20;california sleeping porches, early 24
Above: The dining area was inspired by “California sleeping porches, early screened-in sections of housing used for ventilation pre air-conditioning,” says Pat. “With the new, large sections of glazing we clad the exterior in redwood screened panels that are operable. It adds a very functional component to the house, while also creating an ordered composition that references older architecture.” The light fixture is by Rose Uniacke
next to the minimalist bed are a bedside table and lamp, both designed by pat. 25
Above: Next to the minimalist bed are a bedside table and lamp, both designed by Pat.
the step down granite bath and shower. the granite was sourced from coldspring. 26
Above: The step-down granite bath and shower. The granite was sourced from Coldspring.
Above: Sycamore shutters, designed by Pat, can be found throughout out the home.
rich colors in the kids&#8\2\17; bedroom. the walls are painted in farrow & 29
Above: Rich colors in the kids’ bedroom. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Breakfast Room Green. The rug ​​is from Uzbekistan.
pat did the landscape work himself. &#8\2\20;i’m not a big gym perso 30
Above: Pat did the landscape work himself. “I’m not a big gym person, so I’m typically outside in the garden  getting my steps in. My main objective was to create a drought-tolerant environment that was friendly for children, while also providing color throughout the year. The sandstone works nicely with the handmade Mexican bricks and the decomposed granite and gravel.”
the building was retrofitted to be more energy efficient and sustainable. & 31
Above: The building was retrofitted to be more energy-efficient and sustainable. “We used contemporary methods, like natural insulation, double glazing, heat pumps, and a gray water system, but also referenced older building methods like the redwood screens for ventilation, and transom windows on the interior to light as much of the house without the need for electricity.”

Before

somehow, pat and shannon fell in love with this neglected home. 32
Above: Somehow, Pat and Shannon fell in love with this neglected home.
pat did his best to restore or reproduce the original wainscotting and fret det 33
Above: Pat did his best to restore or reproduce the original wainscotting and fret details.

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Frequently asked questions

Who is Pat Bernatz and where does he live?

Pat Bernatz is an artist and designer. He lives in East Los Angeles.

What is the style of Pat Bernatz's house?

Pat Bernatz's house is a mid-century modern style.

Where can I find more information about Pat Bernatz's house?

You can find more information about Pat Bernatz's house on the Remodelista website.

What materials were used in the renovation of Pat Bernatz's house?

The renovation of Pat Bernatz's house used materials such as plywood, salvaged wood, and concrete.

How long did the renovation of Pat Bernatz's house take?

The renovation of Pat Bernatz's house took around 9 months to complete.

Are there any unique design elements in Pat Bernatz's house?

Yes, Pat Bernatz's house features unique design elements such as a built-in reading nook, an outdoor shower, and a custom fireplace.

What is the inspiration behind Pat Bernatz's house design?

The design of Pat Bernatz's house is inspired by mid-century modern architecture and nature.

Can I visit Pat Bernatz's house?

No, Pat Bernatz's house is not open for public visits.

Does Pat Bernatz offer design services?

Yes, Pat Bernatz offers design services. You can contact him for more information.

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