To look at this Spanish Revival-style home, you’d never know that it was recently a rotting catastrophe where it rained indoors and where a bathtub had fallen through the floor to the basement.
“I’ve toured hundreds of fixer-uppers, but this was easily the worst I’ve ever seen,” says Hunter Kenihan, the designer who brought the 1928 Los Angeles home back to life. “The previous owner did not like to throw away things, and the whole house, particularly the bedroom, had junk piled all the way to the ceiling. Literally 8 feet high of junk throughout the whole room, so that when you opened the door, junk spilled into the next room.”
Kenihan, the head of an L.A.-area boutique real estate development firm, makes his living turning less-than-desirable properties into stylish homes.
“I drove by the property at the end of 2013 while bidding on another property in the area. The house literally looked like it was going to fall over,” he says. “But it had beautiful bones.” He knew he wanted it.
“I was especially drawn to the arched windows and the parapet detail – plus, Spanish Revival houses are probably my favorite style,” he says.
He contacted the owner, who initially left him high and dry. But a couple months later, the owner called out of the blue and said he wanted to sell. Kenihan jumped at the opportunity.
The owner had purchased the property in the 1960s for $16,000, and although its value skyrocketed as its neighborhood, Los Feliz, become more populated and popular, the house fell into extreme disrepair. Kenihan bought it in 2014 for just its land value, $200,000.
“We could only tour part of the kitchen and part of the living room, because there was so much stuff everywhere that we couldn’t walk – not to mention the smell,” he says.
It took seven 40-yard dumpsters to clear all the garbage out of the house. Structurally, the place was collapsing. A hole in the living room was so big you could look through it to see the sun, and when it rained, it rained inside the house. Even the floor plan worked against Kenihan. The house had only one legal bedroom and one bathroom, and the tub had fallen through the rotted floor into the basement.
“We basically started from scratch and rebuilt nearly the entire house while trying to maintain the beautiful facade,” Kenihan says.
The home features painted Mexican tile, Granada tile, decorative wrought iron, custom bronze hardware, terra cotta, those arched windows and vintage finishes. The coved ceiling in the living room and kitchen, thick stucco walls and tile roof all help make this Spanish Revival an updated classic.
He took inspiration from the historic Adamson House in Malibu, with an exterior authentic to its Spanish Revival roots and maximum curb appeal.
“Any time I start a new project, I take note of the character and style of the house and try to stay as authentic to that as possible,” Kenihan says. “Fortunately, this house had character in spades, so my only goal was to stay true to that while delivering a more modern open floor plan.”
The home sold for $915,000, about $15,000 less than the original ask, in six weeks.
“The house has a ‘feeling’ to it–call it soul or authenticity–that really matters to people who are looking to buy this type of home,” says listing agent Tracy Do. “It’s commendable that Hunter and his team put so much time and effort into a house that could easily have been written off as a tear-down. You see the 'before’ photos, and now the results.”
Love a good before-and-after? So do we!
• Old-School Midcentury Modern Gets Radical Transformation (28 photos, before and after)
• Expert Flipper Jeremy Renner Sells Own Home for Triple Price (50 photos, before and after)
• Flipper Cindy Crawford Buys for $6M, Sells for $13.3M (60 photos, before and after)