From English to Scandinavian-Modern: A Full Home Renovation in LA

A Los Angeles family increases their home’s square footage—during the pandemic

Modern home “After” photos by Madeline Tolle for Sweeten. Stylist: Emily Bowser

  • Homeowners: California couple Kirsty and David posted their Los Angeles full home renovation on Sweeten
  • Where: Mid-City / Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles, California
  • Primary renovation: A full home renovation of the 1,400-square-foot Los Angeles space, plus an expansion and new exterior
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovators with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection, all at no cost to homeowners

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Kirsty

Deciding to renovate during COVID

David and I bought our home, a traditional English single family home built in 1924, over 12 years ago. Over the years with our family growing, (Nehemiah 14, Gertrude 4, and our dog, Boston), we knew we needed more space. We’ve been making updates room by room but realized we needed a home that would work for us long-term. 

family portrait

Our location in Mid-City, close to Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, is great. I am in advertising and David is in logistics—our jobs are both in L.A. We didn’t want to sell our house. We wanted to maximize it and create space so that we weren’t living on top of one another. Additionally, we wanted to modernize and open up the interior with smart home features. The minimalist aesthetic would complement the exterior architecture and allow us to be rid of the dated stucco.

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Timing was crucial

A long time before the virus hit, we’d posted our full home renovation on Sweeten, and found three Los Angeles contractors to bid. Sweeten offered us assistance in evaluating all of the GCs’ bids, and we chose our contractor.

Anyone who tried to do anything in 2020 knows: Our biggest challenge was timing. We moved out of our home in February. Two weeks and a lot of demolition later, we were in COVID-19 lockdown. Except that we had no home, no roof, no walls other than those of the temporary housing we’d secured. Fortunately, the City of L.A. allowed residential construction to continue.

Thanks to our construction team, we managed an entire remodel of our home in seven months, during which everything else was a nerve-racking unknown. Interestingly, our team was a very diverse, all-female group of professionals which I loved: our contractor was Filipino, the project manager was Japanese, and our architect, Susan Nwanpka Gillespie of Nwanpka Design was African-American. My husband is South African, and I’m Scottish, which completed the international connection.

The kitchen has a feeling of openness and relaxation, and we love the flowing wood element on the pitched ceiling.

An old house gets a new façade and interior

In the beginning, it was easy to be overwhelmed by how big the project was. Our questions were mostly on the structural side—what could we do with an older home? Could we accomplish our vision? We wanted a Scandinavian-modern look that was contemporary with Mid-Century and industrial touches. When the architect, structural engineer, and general contractor all told us that it could be done, we found the confidence to greenlight the project.

The plan was to add square footage to the front and the back of the house. The family room, master bedroom, and master bath would all be enlarged. We opened up the ceiling in the open-concept kitchen which made the space seem much larger.

We would go all the way down to the house’s framing and exterior details. David and I chose 10-foot glass bi-fold doors to line the back and front of the house for indoor/outdoor living. We wanted unique windows and an incredible skylight in the kitchen. The specially-fitted wood interior doors are extra tall. Finally, the project was taking shape.

A wood aesthetic throughout

An open-plan kitchen featured prominently in our design. The custom 10-foot island, which has a three-inch honed-quartz countertop, is the centerpiece. We used matte gunmetal gray custom cabinets for the lower storage and natural wood for the upper cabinets and parts of the island. Inside the cupboards, we designed hidden cutlery and storage drawers, as well as vertical drawers, for a clever European functionality. The kitchen has a feeling of openness and relaxation, and we love the flowing wood element on the pitched ceiling. For the floors, we went with hardwood in an oil finish and extended that choice throughout the home.

los angeles bathroom

Another focus was on the bathrooms. We expanded the master bath and added a powder room. I love the statement wall and the tile in the master, and the brushed-nickel faucets. We used matte white quartz on the vanity and chose a simple floating toilet. The powder room received a compact sink and vanity for the small space. I wanted all eyes to be on the geometric wallpaper. How could they not be?

We were so happy with the custom cabinetry in the kitchen and baths that we utilized it all around our home, creating hidden storage in the family room and a vanity in the master bedroom. We also installed custom rolling blinds on every window.

powder room wallpaper

The upside of renovating during COVID

Our Sweeten contractor and project manager understood our vision. They were organized, took detailed meeting notes so nothing slipped through the cracks, and kept the project on schedule. They also knew their stuff! The contractor confirmed that the fabrication and installation techniques of every worker were in line with the aesthetics of the übermodern home we wanted. This proved a critical element in our home’s finished look.

(Above) Master bedroom

Our concerns about COVID were ongoing. If work paused, how long would the project take to complete? Was it safe to keep going? To reduce risk, we required anyone working at our job site to wear a mask.

As time went on, we saw the upside of doing a project during this time. We were limited by the pandemic on the things we could do as a family, so it made sense to turn our attention to something constructive. (Pun intended!) It was a light-bulb moment. A silver lining. We may have gone slightly over budget, but we gained enormous satisfaction during a horrible year. We built our dream home.

Thank you for sharing your home’s amazing transformation, Kirsty and David!

Renovation materials

EXTERIOR RESOURCES: Statement white oak front entrance door: CBW Doors. 10-foot glass bi-fold doors with bronze frame: Fleetwood Windows and Doors. Aluminum frame windows in bronze: Milgard.

LIVING AREA RESOURCES: Oil finish wood flooring: Villagio Wood Floors. Blinds: The Shade Store.

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Virgo engineer wood flooring in Rustic Oak: Villagio Wood FloorsItalian white ceramic backsplash tile. Cabinets in white oak veneer panels and lacquered spraypainted panels in smoke gray: Custom. Honed quartz countertop. Sink/faucet: Kräus. Appliances: Appliances Connection. Ceiling paint in Whisper White on white ash wood paneling: Behr

MASTER BATHROOM RESOURCES: Smoke Gray with gray grout, 12″x24″ porcelain bathroom floor tile. White 24″x48″ porcelain bathroom wall tile. White ceramic bar pattern backsplash tile. Hardware and shower fixtures: Brizo. Sink/vanity: Appliances Connection. Wall-hung toilet: Villeroy & Boch. Freestanding tub in matte white: ADM Bathroom. Statuary porcelain shower tile in matte: Roca Tile.

POWDER ROOM RESOURCES: Virgo engineer wood flooring in Rustic Oak: Villagio Wood Floors. Freestanding Alma Gill 40″ Cement Grey vanity with porcelain sink: Alma. Jason Wu faucet and hardware: Brizo. Wall-hung toilet: Villeroy & Boch. Drop It MODERN Labyrinth removable wallpaper: West Elm

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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