Within the verdant landscape of Elysian Heights, a hilly Los Angeles neighborhood in the shadow of Dodger Stadium, rises an almost cartoonishly blue house. Everything about the single-story home, from its azure hue to its sawtooth profile, seems calculated to surprise and bemuse. But before it cut such a standout figure or adopted its vibrant color, the residence was a small and unassuming two-bedroom bungalow built in 1937 in a style shared by its neighbors. Retaining the spirit of the original was key for the current owners, who took over the property in 2015—though that goal is slightly at odds with its choice of moniker.
Now known as Casa Nova, the house was designed collaboratively by local outfit Part Office and Mexico City-based architecture firm PRODUCTORA. The living area has been doubled and reoriented toward a rugged landscape by Angeleno firm Terremoto. For Part Office and PRODUCTORA, frequent partners that share an aversion to demolition, the existing architectural elements were fruitful starting points from which to shape the renovation and addition. “While the original home was too small and unspecific in its architectural design,” explained Wonne Ickx, principal of PRODUCTORA, “it had a logical organization that was good to work with.”
On the exterior, the architects stripped the facade of its period ornament and installed a stucco half wall that “added some privacy to the entry stairs,” said Jeff Kaplon, coprincipal of Part Office. By simplifying the outer shell of the extant house but keeping its volumetric elements—mainly, the vintage bay windows across the primary exposures—the architects achieved “a more monolithic and consistent look,” he noted. The blue-gray paint job, which echoes but doesn’t replicate the blue of the addition, helps to cement that impression.
Inside, the room layout was preserved, with the living room leading directly into a refreshed kitchen/dining area, notable for the extensive millwork concealing shelving and a wine fridge. Retractable glass doors by BMC open the space up to a shaded patio that frames a large California pepper tree out in the yard. “It is really the main asset of the site,” said Ickx, “and we made it functional by adding an outdoor shower at its base.”
Though the design of the addition—which parses the main bedroom, a garage, and a studio across three equally spaced bays—appears to be a bold departure, the architects made several efforts to bridge the gap between old and new. Clad in vertical metal striping, the contemporary structure steps up from its antecedent to resolve the steep slope of the site. The former’s striking sawtooth roofline mirrors and repeats the geometry of the latter’s gabled roofs. Muted blue and green laminate surfaces form the backdrop to the common areas and complement the wood rafters of the primary bedroom.
The three bays open directly onto the garden. In the bedroom two parallel sets of accordion doors are positioned far back enough to make room for twin covered patios, while in the third bay, the studio enjoys views of a hidden garden, itself bounded by wraparound blue fencing. But far from being cloying, Casa Nova’s signature shade meshes well with the lively plantings that ensconce it. Sustained by flora, this blue isn’t likely to fade anytime soon.