The owners wanted to upgrade the appearance, treating it like a blank canvas.(Engbers & Hernholm Photography)
The gray house was perfectly functional before the reimagining.(Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography)
The kitchen now has sleek contemporary cabinets, solid-surface countertops and horizontal glass-tile backsplashes.(Engbers & Hernholm Photography)
The old kitchen had raised-panel cabinet doors and granite counters.(Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography)
The wood floors were not replaced, but refinished.(Engbers & Hernholm Photography)
The wood floors, before refinishing.(Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography)
Lighting is used to dramatic effect.(Engbers & Hernholm Photography)
The living room without the dazzle.(Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography)
The view has changed slightly.(Engbers & Hernholm Photography)
More airy, less chic.(Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style Photography)
When David Komonosky and his husband, Hank Toet, bought a three-story Hollywood Hills home, they already knew it was right down the street from four mansions notoriously rented out for massive parties.
But the couple didn’t grasp the situation until moving day, when they found their street blocked by a truck unloading an elephant for an upcoming bash.
“The gravity and intensity of what these houses are hit us,” Komonosky said. They wondered what they had gotten themselves into.
The houses were built by developer Danny Fitzgerald, dubbed a “high-profile party-palace landlord.” The lavish soirees led to protests from the neighborhood and warnings from the Los Angeles city attorney’s office and Department of Building and Safety. The pandemonium has since been tempered and “gotten manageable,” Komonosky said.
And after their initial concerns, Komonosky and Toet decided the mansions’ brazen parties and garish decor gave license to amp up their own remodeling plans.
“Why not pimp this house out?” David said at the time. “Why not make our own statement?”
“Yes,” Hank agreed, “but also do it in a more tasteful way.”
The couple’s 2,600-square-foot home — four bedrooms and 2 ½ baths on three floors, tucked into a hillside below the Hollywood sign — was by no means a fixer-upper. It was built in 2005 and was perfectly functional. The first owners raised their children there. But the new owners wanted something unique.
First, to reassure themselves they hadn’t erred in buying so close to the party houses, Komonosky and Toet decided they needed even a small triumph, and so had the wood floors refinished. After that they thought, “OK, we can work with this.”
Toet found Sherman Oaks-based designer Alice Kuo on the internet; Komonosky calls her “an up-and-comer.” Although the layout of the gray home was perfectly fine for the couple, they wanted to upgrade the appearance, treating it like a blank canvas.
With Kuo’s guidance, they transformed the kitchen, trading the existing raised-panel cabinet doors and granite counters for sleek contemporary cabinets, solid-surface countertops and horizontal glass-tile backsplashes.
Among the most striking upgrades was the inclusion of specialized LED lighting typically found only in upscale offices or hotels. Because Komonosky works in lighting sales, he was aware of the potential for decorative lighting to add interest and excitement to a home.
On the exterior, they installed vertical bars of LED lights along the curved entryway. Other lights are embedded in the concrete walkway. The exterior lights can change color, but Komonosky said he keeps them blue and dimmed out of respect for the neighbors. He says he’s noticed the cool effect eliciting looks of approval from passers-by.
Inside, the theme continues in the stairwell with a round LED pendant and dramatic LED wall sconces splashing color waves onto the peak of the ceiling. Horizontal lights add interest to the bathroom.
In the living room, Kuo declared the concrete walls too monolithic and added curved faux walls to add dimension and create space for wires and cubbyholes. To the left of the fireplace, two vertical channels glow from embedded LED lights.
During the process, Komonosky and Toet spent more time in their Palm Springs home and say the stress of the remodel put a strain on their relationship. They also made the mistake of replacing all the windows six months after the interior was done, displacing them once more.
They again wondered if they had done the right thing buying the house. The total cost for all phases was more than $500,000. They bought the house for $1.3 million, and Zillow estimates the value at $1.8 million, not including the upgrades.
All doubt changed when the renovations were complete and the couple moved back in.
“We soaked it in, and we fell in love with it again,” Toet said.
Komonosky agreed: “We high-fived each other. We said, ‘We did a good job.’”