Contemporary residential redesign transforms California family home
The contemporary redesign of this South Pasadena residence by architecture studio Medium Plenty transforms California family home
Husband and wife team Gretchen Krebs and Ian Read of Northern California architecture practice Medium Plenty are experienced hands when it comes to home renovations. The pair have expertly architecturally upgraded several residences by paying close attention to existing conditions, while inserting modern gestures, light and a sense of spatial generosity into a domestic, everyday setting. Their recent project falls in this category too, a complete contemporary residential redesign of a South Pasadena family home for Michael Cosentino, a senior producer at a National Public Radio station (KPCC), and his wife Rion Nakaya, founder and editor of digital educational platform The Kid Should See This.
The project involved the transformation of an existing, nearly a century-old South Pasadena residence – originally, Nakaya’s family home. Planning their move-in, the owners discovered they were in need of more space. They were also after a modern interior aesthetic to fit their lifestyle. Their brief suggested balancing classic and modern, warm and minimalist, sharply poised and contemporary with homely and inviting. The new design blends all this with a sophisticated nod to midcentury styles and the aesthetics of modern Japanese houses.
At the same time, the project also transformed the property into a practical, cross-generational home, by redesigning the existing garage into an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU, that is, a smaller housing unit attached to a main, single family home). Nakaya’s mother now lives there. This allows for ‘separate, yet communal living’, the team explain, their design bridging different needs and lifestyles while bringing the family together in a single plot.
The main, single-level space has been opened up, now decluttered and flooded with light through large openings and strategically placed skylights at various points in the house. A rear addition expands the living space. ‘[The] goal was to provide a highly functional space with enough room for all family members, on a tight budget and footprint, while still being able to eke out some good, impactful design. Also [important was] indoor/outdoor living, given the warm California climate and the ability to live easily outdoors for much of the year,’ say Krebs and Read.
A simple palette of woods, along with the owners’ collection of furniture and objects enrich the interior. This is further enhanced by customised details. Still, simplicity remains a key theme throughout this clever residential redesign. ‘The project isn’t flashy or complicated. Rather than using new technologies, it is almost lo-tech,’ the architects continue.
Nakaya adds: ‘Michael and I discussed a lot of styles that we like, primarily Japanese minimalism and midcentury modern. Medium Plenty found the shared aspects of those movements and, along with their studio vision, translated that into an affordable design that met the requirements set by the house’s historic codes. Design rounds in their Oakland office were fun and easy for us, because we already liked their approach to aesthetics and functionality. And then, all along the way, they were responsive to our feedback, kept us in the loop, and worked collaboratively with us on the details.’ §