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Finally back in its prime

After the disappointment of being outbid on a John Lautner gem, Christophe Burusco took his hunt for a modernist house to the hills of Glendale and a single-story, stone-and-glass box that opened up to the San Gabriel Mountains beyond. Called the Daily House after original owners Allan and Jean Daily, the 1,900-square-foot residence had strayed far from its 1954 roots — but the potential was undeniable.

“Over time, it had become a traditional, all-American house with pink plaid wallpaper in the kitchen and swag drapes and gold shag carpeting in the living room,” says Burusco, an attorney, who paid slightly less than $500,000 and became the property’s second owner in 2001. “But I was blown away by the architecture, and I could see beyond all the bad cosmetic changes that had occurred.”

The house — designed by Glendale architect Clair Earl, thoughtfully renovated by Burusco and since added to the Glendale Register of Historic Resources — sits on a 14,000-square-foot lot that feels like a rustic retreat, far from the city. Not a single neighbor is visible from the living room or master bedroom. Rather, Burusco’s eyes are drawn to the vibrant new succulent and cactus garden designed by Los Angeles landscape designer Kathleen Ferguson, who incorporated mature specimens raised by the late Jean Daily Russom.

Burusco revived the interiors too, creating a setting that at first seems straight out of “Mad Men.” Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that even though the house remains loyal to its period, it manages to balance restoration with a 21st century sensibility.

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Working with Josephine DeSanto of Space Bank Design, a Pasadena interior design and restoration firm, Burusco removed old carpeting and wallpaper, replacing them with new cork flooring and grass-cloth wall coverings reminiscent of the 1950s.

“We wanted someone to walk into the house and almost be confused about what was old and what is new,” DeSanto says. “We didn’t want to go ‘time capsule’ but, instead, give a nod to the past and bring the interiors forward in new ways.”

She describes the aesthetic as organic midcentury rather than industrial midcentury. “The design of this home was based on indoor-outdoor connections in every passageway,” she says. “The interior restorations resonate with what’s already happening outside the house.”

The home’s exterior had not been altered except for the addition of a greenhouse next to the carport. Burusco removed that structure and its concrete foundation, giving trees room to breathe. Ferguson added a poured-in-place walkway that provides a visual cue for entering the front garden, a pretty mix of drought-tolerant plants and ornamental grasses. With the greenhouse gone, light now pours through west-facing windows and patio doors, illuminating the once-dark kitchen.

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Shaped like a funnel with its wide end pointed to views of the mountains, the living room is the heart of the home. Its original grooved wood ceiling continues through the glass wall, reappearing as the patio overhang and helping the interior flow effortlessly outside.

Similarly, cream and tan Palos Verde stone that surrounds a built-in wood-burning grill in the kitchen reappears on the living room fireplace. Outside, the same stone contrasts with the original board-and-batten part of the exterior, which DeSanto painted moss green. A sculptural stone accent wall with a trio of window cutouts leads the eye toward the distant mountains.

When he purchased the house, Burusco inherited blueprints and original specifications from Russom Daily, with whom he became friendly. The plans provided a road map for returning the guest bathroom to a 1950s mood, a change that relied heavily on Bisazza mosaic tile. The master bathroom, tiled in orange-rust, had never been changed, making it easy to find replacement vintage fixtures at Architectural Detail in Pasadena.

Kitchen countertops received fresh white Formica finish, and the original cabinet doors were repaired, cleaned and painted orange and gray. The kitchen is small but period-perfect, with an eating area that’s connected to the living room via a pass-through opening.

“For someone who eats out a lot like I do, its size doesn’t bother me,” Burusco says of the space. “On my watch, I needed to leave the kitchen the way it was.” That means an electric Thermador stove and vintage oven rather than high-end, contemporary appliances. He selected a mod 1950s pendant by Poul Henningsen to hang in the eating nook above a Saarinen table and Eames molded fiberglass chairs.

Three bedrooms and two baths are connected to the home’s public areas by a long hallway off of the foyer. Burusco kept the entry’s original teal-colored Vermont slate flooring, but he pulled out the dated shag carpeting elsewhere. Underneath he discovered a concrete floor, but because he wanted a warmer surface, he installed cork.

“I had seen cork in other midcentury houses,” Burusco says. “It was used a lot in the period, plus it has a really nice texture that’s softer than wood or concrete and it’s an environmentally sensitive material.” The 12-by-12-inch yellow cork tile resembles flooring that often was used in the dens or offices of high-end midcentury homes for the “quiet factor,” DeSanto says.

Dated wallpaper was replaced with a warm, sand-colored grass cloth, whose texture and hue play off of the rugged Palos Verde stone.

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“I wanted the palette to be seamless between the grass cloth and the stone,” DeSanto says. “It makes the interior spaces feel larger and doesn’t jar the eye.”

Sage-colored grass cloth accents the master bedroom walls, which the designer intended to exude luxury. “If you had grass cloth on your walls back then, you were a high roller,” she says.

The material, now available in several colors, is from Astek in Van Nuys. A small bedroom-turned-office was given reproduction 1950s Alexander Girard wallpaper. DeSanto says the beige-and-cream pattern “looks both period and modern.”

Before buying the Daily House, while still living in a shared 1980s condo in Santa Monica, Burusco had been collecting midcentury furniture. A family friend sold him a rosewood Eames lounge chair and ottoman set that he had admired since he was a teenager. He picked up the living room’s Jens Risom chair at an estate sale, and he bought the kitchen’s Saarinen and Eames pieces from vintage dealers.

A Southern California native, Burusco finds it a little ironic that he’s embraced the midcentury vibe as an adult.

“Growing up, these houses were looked upon as dated,” he says.

By agreeing to list the home on Glendale’s historical register, he has helped to preserve its legacy.

“My goal was to ensure that if I’m not the owner of this amazing house in the future, insensitive changes can’t be made, such as the addition of a second story or turning the carport into a garage,” he says.

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It’s especially gratifying that Russom Daily witnessed the results of Burusco’s efforts before she died in her 90s.

“I saw that she approved and was happy that I was the steward of the house,” he says.

John LoCascio, a Glendale architect and president of the Glendale Historical Society, calls Burusco a rare breed of homeowner.

“Chris is the ideal owner of the Daily House,” LoCascio says. “He’s managed to respect the original style while also putting his own stamp on it, making the house functional for the new century without altering its original character.”

home@latimes.com


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