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Making sure Mom and Dad can age in their own space

When Patty Lombard realized that her aging parents could no longer live on their own in Florida, she and her husband, Bill Simon, agreed to move them to Los Angeles — not to generic senior housing but to their home in the historic Fremont Place neighborhood.

Making room for Rocci and Anne Lombard was the easy part. There was a tiny, existing structure on the property — chauffeur’s quarters,” built in 1937. The bigger challenge was personalizing the couple’s new lodgings to address their mobility issues and indulge their passions.

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So Patty and Bill — she's co-publisher of LarchmontBuzz.com and he's an executive search consultant — enlisted Patty's sister, Joanna Lombard, an architect in Miami, and local architect Gunther Motz. Together, they redesigned and expanded the structure, which eventually became a snug two-room cottage with a kitchen, a bathroom and loads of wall storage. While they were at it, Patty and Bill also rethought their landscaping.

Anne Lombard and Rocci Lombard sit outside their cottage, as Anne adjusts her husband's sweater on a cloudy day.
Anne Lombard and Rocci Lombard sit outside their cottage, as Anne adjusts her husband's sweater on a cloudy day. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

“We wanted them to feel at home here and have their own space so they wouldn’t feel like they were under foot,” Patty says.

Rocci (pronounced “Rocky”), 96, is a retiree from the insurance business who enjoys gardening; Anne, 90, is a former home economics teacher who loves to cook. Because each uses a walker, Lombard and Simon paid special attention to accessibility.

With help from contractor Tom Salazar, they widened the cottage’s front door in case a wheelchair is needed in the future and replaced steps at the back door with a ramp and a railing. Grab bars, a taller toilet, a walk-in tub and a bench in the shower were installed in the bathroom.

Outside the cottage, landscape designer Judy Horton, who had revamped Patty and Bill’s garden years earlier, removed pavers and gravel to eliminate tripping hazards. In their place went a solid concrete driveway and motor court for surer footing.

A new brick-paved patio gives Rocci and Anne their own outdoor seating area surrounded by white-blooming camellias, oak-leaf hydrangeas and agapanthus. “Iceberg” roses continue the monochromatic theme, but Horton couldn’t resist also planting yellow “Julia Child” and chocolate-colored “Hot Cocoa” roses near the sidewalk in a nod to Anne’s culinary interests.

The poolside view from the outdoor kitchen features an herb garden and raised planters.
The poolside view from the outdoor kitchen features an herb garden and raised planters. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Another ramp leads to the back yard, where Horton and Libby Simon, a design colleague, added three raised planters alongside the pool. The elevated beds enable Rocci to stand or sit while tending tomatoes, basil and arugula intermingled with nasturtiums, marigolds and sweet peas.

“I wanted Rocci to be able to reach the plants from the front and the side so he could garden on his own,” Horton says. With pruners stowed in his walker, Rocci weeds and deadheads whenever the mood strikes.

Since the original pool deck had begun to deteriorate, Horton had sturdy new concrete poured, leaving gaps where Rocci can grow oregano, thyme, sage and other herbs. Pots contain lemons, limes and kumquats.

The home-grown produce comes in handy in the kitchen that Patty and Bill created for Anne by renovating a lanai. Foldaway doors enclose the space, which is equipped with extras like a pizza oven and a radiant-heated floor. “I knew that if it was cold out here, my parents would never come out,” Patty says.

Anne and Rocci Lombard enjoy their cottage.
Anne and Rocci Lombard enjoy their cottage. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

In addition, she ensured that dishes and staples are visible and within easy reach on open shelves. And, for those times when Anne isn’t whipping up something to eat, a sofa and TV make a comfortable spot for the family to kick back together.

“I tell Dad that the changes weren’t just for him and Mom,” says Patty, who has hired caregivers to assist her parents while she and her husband work and their two daughters are away at school. “This whole process has really opened our eyes and made us realize that accessibility helps everybody. Having my parents here has been great.”

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