Abbot Kinney was putting the finishing touches on his new community called Venice of America in 1905. Gondoliers navigated the specially built canals, camel rides were offered along the seaside, and the pier was lined with games and attractions. Kinney's great hope was that the spirit of creativity that drove his vision of Venice would flourish.
It has, but the aging bungalows and cottages from that era have just barely survived. Yet owners who care about history have lovingly restored some of them rather than tear them down. That's the case for this California bungalow on Breeze Avenue built just seven years after Kinney unveiled his ambitious project.
The house sits back among a line of cottages and bungalows on a walk street a few blocks from the beach. From the outside, it looks like a miniature Craftsman: small gables face forward above a broad wooden door and wide porch. Sturdy white pillars emphasize the clean lines of the house.
Inside, all has been re-imagined — this time with an Eastern flair. For the last eight years, Sapna Mittal and her husband, B. Dylan Proctor, have worked to preserve the house, and not in any by-the-book architectural fashion.
They did what Kinney did — let creativity be their guide. The couple knew that a house pushing 100 would need extensive work, so they tapped local artists and craftsman for ideas. In the living room, damaged floors gave way to a lustrous subfloor of Douglas fir. A fireplace covered with layers of paint that Mittal describes as "a montage of social history" was stripped down to the original bricks.
The long, spare room visitors step into from the front door holds the living room and the kitchen. The area has been reconfigured from its original floor plan to remove walls and create space. Natural light streams in from the original wide windows with decorative tops. The kitchen is a compact island, set off by waist-high kitchen drawers made from vintage Chinese elm and topped with granite counters.
"The house is about the light," Mittal says, and "the energy it gives you."
Her eye for design led her to some bold decisions, such as using vintage wood doors to maintain the Craftsman idea of handmade objects. The guest room, for example, is fronted with elaborate 19th century doors from India that add an exotic touch.
In the main bedroom, a walnut sliding door retracts to maintain the flow of the house. The expanded room features a closet on one side and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open out onto a compact garden — an inside-outside place to sit and reflect.
The lone bathroom has been completely renovated with more creative touches. The floor and tub feature deep green tiles glazed by a local artist. A stylish oval of gray volcanic stone serves as the basin and sits on a rough redwood pedestal.
The contemporary on the inside, vintage on the outside look creates an interesting blend for the bungalow that's about to hit the century mark.
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