Inglewood, California is notorious for its high crime rates and low housing standards, but Steven Ehrlich, an architect with 30 years of experience, insists that the near-coastal city is “yet to be discovered.” And he’s bet over a quarter of a million dollars on its up-and-coming status with its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, to beaches, and to neighborhoods like Culver City and Marina Del Rey.
In 2009, Ehrlich purchased a Rudolf Schindler house on Inglewood’s Ellis Avenue for $265,000. Schindler built three modern residences on the block of otherwise conventional homes. The 1940 house was in disrepair: Metal capping topped the stucco building; dirty fiberglass shaded the front and back porch; tired oak floors creaked; walls slouched. But Ehrlich saw the potential for a new home for his daughter, her husband, and their toddler.
Ehrlich derived inspiration from Schindler’s Kings Road house and tried to stay true to the modern master’s vision. Yet, he said, “If Schindler were working today, he would take full advantage of current building technologies rather than freeze the home in time.” So although Ehrlich put in a replica of the oak flooring, skimmed layers of paint off the original brick fireplace, kept most of the cabinet and closet doors, and cloned a built-in desk, he also demolished cabinets that closed in the small kitchen and fitted the kitchen and bathroom with modern amenities. He removed asbestos ducts; made the house more green by insulating the walls, roof, and floor with recycled paper and denim fill, where there had been no insulation at all; put in tempered glass windows; and introduced heating and AC into the outdated modern masterpiece.
Ehrlich built an L-shaped galvanized steel trellis in the backyard patio that mimics the one found atop Schindler’s Kings Road House. He said he trained a 70-year-old grape vine to climb up the trellis and provide shade. Just as Kings Road is really two combined buildings, Ehrlich and his neighbor united their front yards and put in drought-resistant ground covering rather than traditional grass. He kept some of the original aloe plants and created a little seating area where residents of the conjoined houses could convene. To further the illusion of two attached Schindler buildings, and to hide garbage cans from public view, Ehrlich used a translucent fiberglass and acrylic panel to cover the gap between the two homes.
Walking around the renovated 981-square-foot home, it is hard to conjure up images of urban decay. In fact, the neighborhood security guard keeps a close eye on visitors meandering down the block to take pictures of the three Schindler homes on Ellis Avenue—now three of the city’s architectural gems.