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Not all gut renovations start off as complete lost causes. Mary Casper spent two years turning this dated Venice, California, duplex into a breezy home for her client, Noha Salah, but she did not dare touch the deep-set window at the front of the house. “It’s one of those amazing L.A. moments where something kind of pastiche makes its way into a project. Sometimes it’s terrible, other times it’s amazing, and you don’t know where it came from,” says Casper, the principal designer and creative director of Social Studies Projects. Most of the updates that had been made to the property had a sad, 1980s energy to them (like the bumpy ceilings that slightly resembled the texture of cottage cheese), but this funky window, Casper decided, could stay. “It was really about bringing this house back without losing some of the charm and history that was already present,” she adds. 

The main challenge, though, was absorbing the second-floor apartment into the house (it’s now the primary suite) and devising a new floor plan with interior stairs (previously, the only set was located outside). Casper and her team, along with the builders at Mardyks & Co., did all of this while still offering a sense of discovery as you walk through the home. Sure, she took down some walls, but she put some up, too. “It was important to make it feel intimate,” says the designer. “It’s not just a super-open floor plan.” 

Add Arches Strategically

Like the quirky square window at the front of the house, the rest of the home is full of what Casper calls “hard geometry,” or lots of rectangles and 90-degree angles. The designer used this as an excuse to amp up the curvature in the space. “It helped soften some of those boxy volumes,” she notes. At first, Casper drew up a plan for the interior where every threshold was an archway, but she quickly realized the idea felt “too cute, so we tried to make them special moments,” she continues. Her plan of action for the doors: Keep all the swinging ones squared off and designate the pocket ones as arches. 

Smooth Transitions With Curved Millwork

The kitchen, before.

Incorporating curves in areas where one room blurs into another proved to be a handy way to smooth the transition. For instance, the rounded lower cabinet in the kitchen that holds the owner’s espresso machine keeps your eye moving into the adjacent dining area. “The curving was really our way of solving for a run of cabinetry that otherwise would terminate, and you’re looking at the side of it,” notes Casper.

The custom plain sawn white oak millwork in the kitchen and bathrooms was easily the biggest splurge of the project. “We did this thin Shaker profile, which balances between a more modern and more organic language,” says the designer. 

Bathe the Vanities in Sunlight

The ensuite, before.

When Casper was converting the second-floor apartment into a primary suite, she ended up with a layout that left one small window in the corner of the bathroom over the tub. The arrangement was less than ideal.

“We love natural light in a bathroom, particularly at the sink where people are looking at their face in the mirror,” she notes. Introducing a handful of skylights to the bathrooms just made sense, plus they don’t sacrifice anyone’s privacy.

Get Your Windows on the Same Page

The exterior, before.

While the exterior might look very similar to how it did before Casper stepped on the scene, the designer actually had the whole facade re-stuccoed and all of the old wood windows and doors replaced with aluminum-clad ones that are not only more energy efficient but cohesive in style. “There were six or seven different types of windows before,” she recalls. “It had this Frankenstein effect. When you were inside, it didn’t feel unified.” It just so happened that Salah loved the existing black and white scheme, making for a less dramatic reveal. “It felt classic to her,” says Casper. Danny Butch stepped in with a fresh, low-maintenance landscape design.

Do It All in an ADU

The garage, before.

What used to be a two-car garage is now what Casper calls a “Swiss Army knife space.” Originally, the unit was meant to be a place for the homeowner to work remotely, but it snowballed into a space to host family and friends for long stays, an area to work out in, and a room to host poolside gatherings. Casper made the most of the 400-something square feet by utilizing the windowless side of the lofted ADU to create the ultimate built-in. The millwork encompasses a Murphy bed, a secret desk, a wardrobe, and tons of storage for yoga gear and entertaining ware. Popping open a bottle of champagne with a knife is impressive, but we love a party trick that involves flipping a cabinet open to reveal a nightstand.