Corley, 8, spends time in a part of the bathroom
that features an outdoor Japanese tub in her
family's Mar Vista home on October 26, 2107.
ANGELES ó After living in Tokyo, Barton Corley and Mai
Hirai were used to small spaces.
when it came time to remodel their 1,100-square foot,
three-bedroom, one-bath home in Mar Vista, they were
more concerned with how they wanted to live with their
daughters Leah, 4, and Enna, 8.
I first met them, they described to me how they lived in
Japan, and it wasnít specific," says architect
Talbot McLanahan, who spearheaded the modest remodeling
project. "They didnít tell me ĎWe want our
house to look like this.í It was more about how they
wanted to live each day."
couple purchased the traditional home, which was
advertised as a fixer, in 2009. Because the rooms were
small and compartmentalized, they tore down the wall
between the kitchen and living room and remodeled the
later, however, the interiors of the home still felt
dark and confined, and the family grappled with feeling
disconnected from the outdoors and the neighborhood they
waiting years to remodel, the couple knew what they
wanted: a formal dining room, a sunken gengkan room in
the entry where shoes are removed, and an outdoor
bathtub. "We take bathing seriously in Japan,"
non-native Californians ó Corley is from Missouri and
Hirai was born and raised in Tokyo ó the couple also
knew that they wanted to take advantage of
kids are constantly running in and out of the
house," adds Corley.
at a time when their neighborhood is dotted with newer
two-story Modernist boxes, the couple did not want their
new home to overwhelm the neighborhood.
are seeing a lot of speculative development around
here," says McLanahan who lives nearby. "Itís
refreshing to keep things one story."
open up the interiors, McLanahan removed the walls at
the two corners of the house and extended the corners to
create a dynamic roofline. She added 500 square feet,
including a master bedroom extension in back, and a new
master bathroom and outdoor soaking tub. At the front of
the house, a new dining room now serves as a
multipurpose room that can transition from dining to
homework to play time.
hard to hide on a corner lot, so McLanahan chose to
embrace the location.
has to be beautiful from all sides on a corner
lot," she explains. "I wanted to call
attention to the addition by tilting the roof up and
providing a clerestory that allows light in during the
covered the exterior of the house with board and batten
siding and painted it a gray-brown color by Benjamin
Moore that appears to change according to the time of
day ó Dragonís Breath. In the new master bathroom,
McLanahan continued the exterior siding indoors to ease
the abrupt transition from outdoors to inside.
industrial windows are installed high to provide privacy
and give the house a warm glow when it is illuminated at
red cedar beams, widely used in Japan, are installed
over the breakfast nook to highlight the homeís front
window. The beams extend outside the window, which
provides shade for the familyís occasional rice ball
new master bathroom is a testament to Japanese
minimalism with a limited palette of wood, hand-poured
concrete saddlebag sinks, white tile and plaster. Like a
traditional Japanese bath, the outdoor tub is a straight
shot from the indoor shower.
ultimately, the architect looks to nature, not
tradition, as her guide.
can make such a difference just by adding coastal
breezes and light," says McLanahan, who grew up on
the coast of Massachusetts.
much about living there was about the coastal
breeze," she explains. "If I didnít have
that smell, I felt like I was too far away from the
water, and something wasnít right."
was an instinct that inspired the Corley-Hirai remodel.
(Next up for the family? Saving for the large
landscaping job that lies ahead.)
first thing she did when she came to the house was sit
quietly and observe the light and breeze," says
Corley. "That simple move has enhanced the way we