The Psychology Behind Going Home Again
By Brit Billeaud
Over the years, our concept of “home” and all it represents can change. It’s natural. We leave our childhood homes behind and move on with our own lives. But what happens when we move back into our childhood home? What if we realize the space we grew up in no longer accommodates our older-self’s active and entertaining lifestyle? Sometimes an interior renovation is just the ticket. For Dwellarc’s client, psychotherapist Alan Slasor, it was a longtime dream to reacquire his childhood home. Thus, after his parents passed on, and after negotiations with his sisters, Slasor found himself back where he began.
Metaphorically we are constantly reinventing ourselves during our lifespans—we rewire, we knock out windows, or tear down the walls of our psyches—evolving through time, growing and changing. Slasor was now literally doing just that. He started renovations himself—taking up carpets and making minor repairs here and there, but as the face-lift progressed, Slasor felt he needed an outsider’s perspective and guidance. Larger design decisions needed to be made.
Having already hired Dwellarc to design the front entryway and landscaping (click here to see May 23, 2017 Blog), Slasor decided to expand the scope of work to the entire house. We then faced the problem of what to do with the living room—a rather narrow, confining space. When Slasor was a child, his father wanted the family to have a “lanai” so he built an enclosed porch off the living room complete with terrazzo flooring. In the design of the lanai, Slasor’s father opted to retain the rear wall of the house which included a 10-foot wide sliding glass door—the result was the creation of two separate and smaller rooms.
After chatting with Slasor, we determined the living space would be more useful with an open floor plan combining the two rooms into one. This provided an opportunity to increase the outdoor area for entertaining by removing some of the area of the lanai.
The original 1949 rear patio was a beautiful, large outdoor space, but the addition of the lanai enclosure substantially reduced its size. To open the outdoor area even more, we removed an existing low planter and added a focal point—a vertical concrete block wall that creates a backdrop for a dramatic garden sculpture. We removed overgrown plants and added creeping fig vine (Ficus repens) to cover the existing unfinished concrete retaining walls.
Hedges on both sides of the new outdoor patio provide privacy while conveying the feeling of an outdoor room.
The greatest challenge in the process was to simplify the shapes of the rooms and decide where the new exterior wall should be located. Part of the process—of figuring out the size of the new family room was one of realization—the rooms needed to function as one cohesive, rectangular space as unobstructed as possible. We decided to remove the original exterior wall and sliding glass door and add a single steel column in its place—a design choice that wouldn’t compromise the layout and would also allow for an existing long-span roof beam to remain in place.
The kitchen was included as a natural extension of the open floor plan. A traditional picture window was replaced with horizontal fixed glass–filling the space between the upper and lower cabinets. This placement gives a heightened sense of indoor/outdoor space.
A stainless steel appliance bay meets the needs for either large scale dining parties or intimate dinners. The monochromatic two-tone color scheme of metal and white formica with PentalQuartz counter tops is perfectly accented by the brightly colored, Eames molded fiberglass side chairs. On the counter to the right is one of Slasor’s own mechanical, moveable sculptures.
A light fixture, “Titania Pendant,” by Alberto Meda adds just the right touch of color hanging over a custom designed solid walnut breakfast table.
As always, Dwellarc worked to meet the needs of its client—creating conceptual illustrations and floor plans for the renovated open space. Next, we worked to reconfigure the layout for the master bedroom suite—combining multiple rooms into one and giving the sense of accentuated “loft living.” We incorporated the master bathroom, a separate toilet room and converted a spare bedroom into a studio space for the client. This new open plan allows for easy circulation between the rooms and provides full height walls to retain the visual privacy, reinforcing the feeling of openness to the suite.The first time Slasor saw the new master suite plan and sketches, his reaction was one of excitement; especially after imagining this entire wing of the house would be for his own personal use. He also loved that his parent’s bedroom was re-oriented to take advantage of the most dramatic view across a wooded canyon.
By aligning the new bathroom entry with an existing hallway and using sliding glass doors on the exterior wall of the bathroom, we were able to fulfill one of our earliest visions—to provide an open view from the living room straight through the west wing of the house to a new garden area beyond. Natural light now floods into what was once a long dark hallway.
Slasor said if his parents could see the home, they would be amazed and happy with the home’s transformation. It was familiar yet completely different. It was just what he wanted. For some people, it’s hard to go home. The unattainable sense of being “home” forever may not be possible—for Slasor, he has grown and evolved and redefined his sense of “home.” His memories are pleasant ones. He thinks about his family, his sisters, the various pets he had over the years and finds the house a comfort. Both client and home have grown and changed. Today, Slasor loves the renovation and the open floor plan.
His furnishings and key art pieces serve to remind him of his earlier life and include a Noguchi coffee table, Eames chairs and a live edge wood dining table.
Writer and Media Management Consultant Taylor Van Arsdale provided research and contributed to this article.
DwellArc Architecture + Design
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Brit Billeaud, AIA, NCARB
“Helping you create a home that inspires your life—and makes all your friends jealous.”
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