When the owner of a classic 1928 bungalow in L.A.’s buzzing Highland Park neighborhood realized his home was in need of some modern upgrades to appeal to today’s discerning buyer, he enlisted the services of Aaron B. Duke. The mastermind behind the eponymous L.A.-based lifestyle design and architectural coordination studio got to work applying his design know-how to enhance the volume and charm of the 1,020-square-foot bungalow. The newly-renovated home, represented by The Agency’s Michael Perez, Aileen Comora, and Paul Lester, is now a glorified, modern gem that embodies the neighborhood’s laid-back, bohemian spirit. We caught up with Aaron to chat about his approach to the home’s renovation—and even scored a few quick and easy tips for breathing new life into our own living spaces.
Highland Park has become a major creative hub in Los Angeles, and it’s also a neighborhood with a great deal of history. How did the bones of the home itself, and the neighborhood’s distinct vibe, play into your approach to the renovation?
It played a big role. When it came to the design, we certainly wanted to appeal to the market, which is now composed largely of creative home buyers who want a property that has charm and architectural integrity with contemporary appeal. We looked closely at the Spanish-Mediterranean style of the home and incorporated ideas that would carry the property into the present day while staying true to its origins. When buying an older home, you can’t really step outside the architecture of it, however you can bring things up to modern standards of luxury. For me that often means juxtaposing the old and new; vintage-inspired pieces with clean, contemporary finishes—from an antique rocking chair next to a bold piece of modern art in the guest room to a stainless steel farmhouse sink and subway tile in the kitchen.
How does your approach to designing a smaller bungalow differ from that of a large estate?
With small spaces, every room has to be multi-functional, and every decision meticulous. For example, with this home, the kitchen also serves as the eat-in dining room, and we incorporated a built-in desk space to inspire multiple uses for the area. Also, even though it is a smaller home, the divided living room and kitchen made the spaces feel smaller. By opening up the kitchen to the living room, we created a sense of volume and fluidity. We kept the dark hardwood floors consistent throughout, and settled on a neutral wall color to create continuity and evoke a sense of scale as you move from room to room. Given the small kitchen footprint, we chose to keep everything light and bright, and avoided installing upper cabinets to maintain a feeling of openness throughout the space.
Can you offer some simple tips for readers looking to renovate a modest space?
Keep flooring and other finishing materials to a small selection and use them throughout the home for continuity. When it comes to decorating, select furniture in scale and proportion to the home—no large, overstuffed sectionals in the living room! For example, in the case of 225 N. Avenue 49, we installed a queen sized bed and furniture to scale with the space in the master bedroom, and used soft, neutral-colored linens to let other, more bold design elements stand out without overpowering the space.
With the change in seasons often comes a desire to breathe new life into our living spaces. What are a few simple, cost-effective changes readers can make to their homes now to refresh their living spaces?
1. Don’t forget to put hardware on your cabinets. Whether it’s traditional or modern in design, hardware is like the jewelry for your cabinets—it’s an easy way to add new life to a kitchen, bathroom, or old dresser with minimal cost and effort.
2. Paint is a great way to change the color and feel of a room, but don’t forget about wallpaper! It’s not your grandma’s wallpaper anymore!
3. With the holidays approaching, seasonal pillows for sofas and chairs are a great way to add color to a room.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of plants and flowers! Consider swapping out summer’s orchids for winter’s hydrangeas.