American Craftsman meets Swiss chalet in Pasadena
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A dentist named Francis K. Ledyard paid $10,000 to the Milwaukee Building Co. — the firm best known for Grauman’s Chinese Theatre — for his two-story, four-bedroom house. Believed to be the only home like it in Pasadena, it sported furry, bark-on redwood logs, russet-stained redwood shake siding and a white limestone chimney — an American Craftsman with a touch of Swiss chalet.
That was 1909. By the time architect Douglas Ewing spotted the house in 2003, the defining log trim was gone, the house had been painted brown and the kitchen and bathrooms had undergone Midcentury Modern remodels.
But Ewing, who grew up among Pasadena’s Craftsman bungalows and worked for Case Study architect Whitney Smith, had by then designed several Adirondack-style projects, including a Colorado ski lodge for Ralph Lauren.
“I fell in love with log buildings,” Ewing said. So he and his wife, Maggie, decided to buy the house, warts and all.
Negotiations fell through, however, and the house wound up back on the market. Enter Faith Dymek and her husband, Mark, who were moving from Virginia. They brought with them daughter Ryanne; Faith’s mother, Sharon McCabe; plus Arts and Crafts furniture that had never looked quite right in their old Colonial-style home.
The couple bought the “falling-down, ramshackle, termite-ridden house” in 2004, Faith said, figuring a little elbow grease was all they needed to fix it up. Then they met Ewing, who explained the difference between making the house livable and bringing it back to life as originally designed. The latter, he said, would require more time, more money and more expertise.
The Dymeks’ decision?
“We decided we would restore versus renovate,” Faith said.
To economize, she served as general contractor, visiting the job site daily and gathering leads on local artisans.
“This town has a wealth of incredible craftsmen,” she said. “They don’t all have business cards or websites, but people know people who know the perfect guy. Word of mouth is not to be underestimated.” Other times, complete strangers volunteered information. A real estate agent offered a photocopy of a 1911 article about the house from American Homes and Gardens magazine. The detailed description and black-and-white photos revealed that a second-floor sleeping porch had been enclosed and that log pergolas once covered the front porch and a side garden.
A color image of the house materialized when a local painter dropped off a copy of a vintage postcard. And a previous resident stopped by to share what she knew, which included the markings on a door frame that are believed to be the heights of the Ledyard children.
When work began in 2005, replacing the dry-stacked brick foundation was the priority and took seven months. Ewing hoisted up the house to remove the loose bricks, then poured concrete.
“All that had held the house up was its own weight and gravity,” he said.
To rehab the rustic exterior, Ewing tapped Montana Idaho Log & Timber in Victor, Mont. Redwood logs were no longer available, so the company supplied bark-off natural turned pine logs. Over five months, 400 to 500 logs meeting Ewing’s specifications were cut, numbered and labeled, then trucked south, where two craftsmen spent three months re-creating the pergolas and timber trim.
Inside, Ewing left the den and living and dining rooms intact but updated the kitchen, turned the maid’s room into a laundry room and grafted on a breakfast porch out back. Upstairs, he sacrificed a bedroom to create a bathroom and more storage. The sleeping porch was enclosed anew, but this time Ewing recessed the walls to give the illusion of the original open balcony.
The rest of the lot features a new pond-like swimming pool, an outbuilding converted into a guest cottage for Faith’s mother and a modern garage that replaced a barn Faith remembers being “held up with chicken wire and vines.”
Paul Haywood and Chris Kidd still spend months at a time refinishing doors, windows and shingles, and applying sunscreen and conditioner to preserve those picturesque logs.
“We didn’t need to do all that we did, but we felt it was our responsibility to put the house back together the way it was.” Faith said. “After the extraordinary investment we made, the thought of not keeping the place up is unthinkable.”
CRAFTSMAN DESIGN: GO-TO RESOURCES FOR THIS HOUSE
Faith Dymek sought out a long list of fixtures, fabrics and information resources to restore her family’s house in keeping with its original Craftsman aesthetic:
Crown City Hardware in Pasadena: “We wanted latches and hinges for several new windows to match the 1909 hardware,” Dymek said. “I set out hoping to come close, but Crown had the exact pieces — in stock.”
Historic Lighting in Monrovia: “Historic helped us create custom outdoor lanterns and a dining room chandelier that combines mahogany framing made locally with glass shades handblown in San Francisco.”
Archive Edition Textiles in Hawthorne: “Archive had period fabrics to reupholster sofas and make bedspreads, pillows and table runners.”
American Bungalow magazine: “The directory of advertisers is awesome, and the articles detailing restorations all over the U.S. are great.”
Craftsman Weekend Exposition Show & Sale: Pasadena Heritage’s annual event is scheduled for Oct. 19 to 21 this year. “Amazing resource,” Dymek said. “I met artisans from around the country who knew how to approach stripping our woodwork and staining our replacement shingles.”
Gamble House in Pasadena: “I went on tour after tour and studied the casement window treatments, then had similar ones made of wood for our daughter’s room.”
-- Emily Young