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In Silver Lake, two architects give their 1960s rental a minimalist overhaul

A couple renovates their landlord’s family home

When Annie Ritz and Daniel Rabin bought a home in Silver Lake seven years ago, they probably couldn't have guessed they'd give it up for a rental. But when the two architects stumbled upon a unique midcentury residence in the same neighborhood, the opportunity for a new project proved too irresistible to pass up.

Friends told Ritz and Rabin about the home, which they were getting ready to vacate. The couple was intrigued when they took a look at the home and found the 1960s structure to be in need of a few updates.

Drawn to the home’s modern charm—and its potential—they contacted the landlord and made him an unusual offer: They’d renovate the home in exchange for a discount on rent.

He was amenable to the idea, but he wanted to make sure they wouldn’t touch a few quirky design elements—including custom wallpaper in two rooms of the home.

“He grew up here,” Ritz says. “His father built the house ... so there are some features that he wanted to keep.”

With a new child, Charlie, in tow, Ritz and Rabin were also eager to relocate into the coveted Ivanhoe Elementary attendance area, and agreed to leave the wallpaper intact.

Upon signing the lease, the couple set to work on a host of projects. They installed new electrical wiring and lighting fixtures in the open living area, sandblasting the ceiling to reveal the natural wood tone underneath layers of “greenish dark brown” paint.

“The hook for us was this living space,” Ritz says. “We loved the ceilings, the view, and just feeling like you’re in a tree house.”

Indeed, most of the home is propped up atop the large garage, or cantilevered out over the driveway. The large windows and a newly reinforced balcony look out across the surrounding hills and the reservoir to the east (the couple is very much looking forward to seeing it refilled).

Ritz and Rabin also replaced the floors, windows, and doors—and added a breakfast nook next to the kitchen. Its rosy walls are painted in “our favorite color of pink,” Ritz says, with the assurance of someone who has considered just about every shade out there.

The couple also did minor work on the bathrooms, upgraded the kitchen with a new sink and a fresh paint job, and installed electric wiring and light fixtures in their son’s room—which is wallpapered with a massive map of the world as it appeared in the Cold War era of the home’s construction.

In the TV room, vintage photos, postcards, and travel brochures from Scandinavian countries cover an entire wall—another remnant of the home’s former occupants.

“I think the decoupage went three walls around,” Ritz says.

“We had to tone it down,” Rabin laughs.

“We left a wall because the owner loved the touches of what his parents had done,” says Ritz.

Wall art aside, the house is simple and versatile. The openness of the living area is ideal for entertaining or quiet family moments by the white brick fireplace. The adjacent balcony brings access to views and the option of outdoor dining.

Best of all, the home is located on a quiet street in a neighborhood that’s family-friendly and close to work.

Rabin custom-designed the dining room table using a slab of terrazzo flooring.

“Silver Lake is the perfect-sized neighborhood,” Rabin says. “It’s super tiny, but there’s a little bit of everything.”

“And it has a really friendly group of people,” Ritz agrees. “And, especially having kids, it’s really important that the people that live here share your values, share your interests ... it’s just a really good community.”

What started out as an intriguing project has turned into a home that suits the couple’s immediate needs to a T. They even like the wallpaper.

“We’re very minimal, so to have something that’s [already] existing that adds this patina and charm is kind of fun,” Ritz says. “The world map we really like, and our son really likes. Even though he doesn’t know any of the countries yet, it’s a very fun feature in his room, and protecting it from his goobery hands is also a project.”

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