Transforming the Blues
By: Briana Armour For Find Bliss Magazine
written By Briana Armour | photos By jeff skeirik
Design + Build by: Lorri Kline + Bob Ramirez
The renovation of a home is a structural transformation; a stripping down of what once was in order to shape and create a new vision and space. It’s a process that requires planning, organization, and collaboration. It is a confluence of teamwork and shared vision. When homeowners, Karen Klein and her husband Stanley Weiser, began this journey with their design team Bob Ramirez and Lorri Kline, little did either couple know that the rebuilding of a Santa Monica home would also lead to transformation in their own lives.
Karen has called Santa Monica her home for many years, but the house where she and Stanley had been living was no longer conducive to their lifestyles. Stanley is a renowned screenwriter (Wall Street, W. and Murder in Mississippi) and a founding member of the West Los Angeles Shambhala Buddhist Meditation Center, who writes at home—at night. The layout of their home had become stifling to both their energy and their happiness. Karen had recently left a 30-year career as a commercial real estate broker, for clients including Starbucks, with a goal to find the perfect new home and to devote time to her yoga practice. While she did find a house she initially thought would be ideal, the day before renovations were set to begin, Karen felt uneasy and decided to drive around the neighborhood to calm
"A lot of love went into the design and building of this home, and the passion extended to the whole crew."
her nerves. As she recounts, “I’m driving up the street and I see a gate open and a guy putting a white flag in the lawn for an open-house and I thought, ‘It’s going to be a huge mansion we can’t afford, or it’s going to be a horrible mess. But if there is a parking space right in front, I’ll go in.’ My heart was palpitating and I was hoping I wouldn’t like it.” Even though the house had neither the floorplan nor the aesthetic Karen wanted, she immediately said to herself, “I’m going to live here.”
After a series of deep philosophical discussions and planning sessions with Bob and Lorri, Karen began to see the picture of her new home come together. She knew that she wanted a space that would give her husband ample room for his all-night writing sessions while also allowing her to move about freely. “The new home was built to enhance, enrich, and enliven our independent lives as well as our life together.” The entire design and build-out process took about one year. During those months, Karen, Bob, and Lorri (along with Karen’s dear friend, Tim Lewitzke of LIFE Gym in West Los Angeles), made sure that every element of the house from the floors to the colors of the throw pillows incorporated color schemes and textures inspired by nature. Lorri says, "A lot of love went into the design and building of this home, and the passion extended to the whole crew."
The end result is a property with a natural flow in which one room leads to another and where there is a smooth flow of living space transitioning from the outdoors to the indoors. Karen says, “I wanted to feel like I was at a resort when I was at home.” To create these effects, the team brought in a local Japanese woodworker to custom build Shoji-style sliding doors through the home which allows the space to change day-to-day, from one function to another, or from open to intimate. One of the most impressive features of the home is the yoga and meditation room on the second floor. Prior to renovation, this was a small low-ceiling attic which they opened up to create a calm sanctuary. To help redefine the attic as proper living space, they used the same wide panel white oak floors as the rest of the house with the addition of sunken and flush tatami mats. Sliding doors lead to a private upper deck with a yacht-style reading nook. Karen had remained dedicated to and passionate about her yoga practice throughout her corporate career so a key motivator in the renovation was the inclusion of an in-home yoga studio where she could teach yoga and practice meditation. “This house inspired me. Giving back is how I want to spent the rest of my life. I am so grateful and honored to live in such a beautiful home and in my favorite city in the world.
The remodeling of this home was not just a structural rebuild but a rebuilding of life for both couples.
What good is all of this beauty if I don’t have the honor of sharing it with others?” At the core of the home is a tall timber, two-story structure with a covered deck that functions as one of the main living areas. Four wide pocket doors slide neatly to reveal expansive gateways to the adjacent kitchen and screening room. The comfortable ground floor master bedroom suite includes a vibrant yet calming blue and white master bath connecting this Santa Monica bluffs home to the Pacific Ocean just steps away. The Cararra marble counters and tub surround have the same matte finish as the kitchen counters adhering to the theme of consistent materials. Another key feature of this remarkable home is a lap pool protected by a massive natural stone wall with a tile hot tub and water feature. Consummating Karen’s desire for resort-like living, many nights include a swim, a soak, and a bath before bed.
The wooded three-story hideaway sits in the heart of Santa Monica, within walking distance to shopping on Montana Avenue and to Palisades Park. Before the remodel, the house was 2,463 square feet on a modest lot. By the completion of the remodel, the team added 500 additional square feet of space by expanding the attic and using every bit of space in-
“This house inspired me. Giving back is how I want to spent the rest of my life...”
side the house efficiently. The use of fountains and exotic plants give the landscape of the home vibrancy and life while also providing an escape from the bustling street, just a few feet away. Matching bungalows by the pool create a stunning backdrop and visual barrier from surrounding homes as well as a space to offer guests comfortable quarters while visiting. Wanting to incorporate even more nature into the home, and integrate with the indoor/outdoor theme, the couple commissioned a local woman to build a custom aviary outside Stanley’s office to house his 15 birds. Additionally, on the property, a square poured concrete koi pond houses fish, water lilies, and a reclaimed waterspout from India.
The natural flow of space in the floorplan and finish of the home gives the feeling that the home is significantly larger than its mere square footage suggests. From the Brazilian Ipe decking and white oak flooring planks the solid walnut cabinets and doors to the Douglas fir structure, every element in the home has an elegant yet natural feel. Even the white reflective glass used in the kitchen brings in light and adds to both the brightness of the home and a virtual feeling of the outdoors. The team chose to use the same materials throughout the structure to create continuity, connecting the various rooms and offering a Zen-like beauty in the simplicity. They also made a conscious decision to choose soundproof doors so that Stanley could write in his office without the disturbance of background noise. As Bob Ramirez says, “It was all a team effort: the structure, the concrete, the steel, the layout of the rooms, and the electrical, all the way to the visuals.” Karen states, “The house honors the neighborhood but it honors itself. We created what we felt was meant to be.”
The remodeling of this home was far more than structural; it represents rebuilding of life for both couples. Everyone involved in the reconstruction of this house saw a simultaneous renewal in their own lives through the collaboration. No one ever expected there to be such parallels between the remodel of the structure and life itself. As Lorri states, “Our working title for this house was ‘Transforming the Blues.’ Sometimes life requires a renovation of sorts. Every brick, every layer, every corner has to be rethought in order to rebuild.”
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