Laguna Avenue Bungalow Gets Royal Treatment
When contractor Michael Kyle took on the
challenge of restoring a 1913 duplex on Laguna Avenue, he learned that some mixing and matching would be necessary if the
units were to have the unified, historically accurate look he sought.
The distinctive Craftsman duplex is known to many in the neighborhood for its lengthy, curving brick staircase that
leads from the street all the way up to the front porch, which faces Echo Park Lake.
Kyle bought the property, which includes a back house built in 1931, last year. It turns out that the previous owner
had chosen the house, in part, because of the large number of steps from the sidewalk to the front porch.
Ivy Lambert, the previous owner, told the EPHS that her mother had a habit of trying to keep cars from parking in front
of her home. The long staircase on Laguna seemed a perfect way to keep her mother from constantly checking the street. Another
plus, of course, was the lake, which is visible from several windows of the home.
The house's casement windows were largely intact (none of the windows had been replaced!) as were the original clear
douglas fir floors and mouldings, which Kyle has restored. In the larger of the two front units he has stripped the paint
to show the wood of the crown moulding as well as original built-in shelving.
Kyle, the owner of a retrofitting company, also pulled out plastered fiberboard to expose wainscoting detail. Where
countertops or cabinets were missing, Kyle found compatible replacements from salvage firms such as Santa Fe Wrecking Company
in downtown Los Angeles and Freeway Salvage in East Los Angeles. In Gardena he found antique, deco black and white tile for
Kyle believes the apartments were originally built as separate, attached units. Matching fireplaces in each unit provide
a clue. When the renovations are complete, he plans to rent the units.
Although Kyle did make creative changes to the floor plans of the units - for better use of space and flow - he says
all of the changes were made with the goal of preserving the historic character of the building as it was originally built.
Kyle heard about the property from a neighbor, former EPHS board member, Isa-Kae Meksin, who feared it might be bought
by a nearby developer - or the nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church - and demolished. Only a few months ago, the city's Building
and Safety Department razed a Spanish duplex a few doors away.
Instead, Kyle is restoring the unusual bungalow and
providing beauty and stability to one of Echo Park's most interesting streets