The small Cape Cod-style home just didn’t fit. Curled up on a verdant lot and embraced by wild, flourishing gardens, the house seemed out of place, both on its own feet and amidst the grand estates that share its Brentwood address. But its indomitable charm and unrealized splendor were immediately evident to Timothy Corrigan.
“It was this incredible, beautiful property,” says the Los Angeles-based designer, whose namesake firm stands behind projects across the country as well as in Europe and the Middle East. “But the house was almost bungalow-like, with a single bedroom, very low ceilings and no architectural detailing to speak of.” Corrigan decided to purchase the little-house-that-could as a labor of love and was determined to bring it to its full potential.
“The greatest challenge I can take on is an existing home that—for whatever reason—just doesn’t work and updating it to meet the needs of today,” Corrigan says. “I love that.” So, with the help of builder Brad Jensen, of Jensen Zigman in LA, Corrigan completely reimagined the house, significantly raising its ceilings and adding a second floor, connecting the property’s two-story guesthouse to the main structure and replacing a tennis court with a new pool and guesthouse.
“I kept the original footprint and expanded outward and upward from there,” says Corrigan, whose seamless, yearlong renovation nearly doubled the home’s square footage, taking the property from forlorn to fabulous in the process. An abundance of custom millwork, including paneling, built-ins, ceiling beams and architectural molding, now adorns every room, while a bank of French doors added along the back of the house floods those same rooms with light that bounces off the gleaming oak-plank floors. “You’d never know where the old spaces end and the new ones begin,” the designer says proudly.
The ugly duckling now a bona fide swan, Corrigan’s next task was finding per- manent caretakers for his beloved pet project. He didn’t wait long.
“I walked in, called my husband and said, ‘You have got to come see this,’” recalls the woman who today calls the place home. “We had been looking for a house on and off for two years, and I immediately felt that this was the one,” she says. “We wanted something beautiful and unique, of course, but the most important thing was finding a house that had a warmth and a hominess to it, a place that felt as if it had been here a long time. This was exactly what we were looking for.”
Almost, chuckles Corrigan. “They loved everything I had done with the house, but there were things they wanted to add.” On the list: extra bedrooms to accommodate their brood of three, a large home office for the husband, and an expanded laundry room and pantry. Struck by Corrigan’s obvious passion for the house, the couple retained the designer not only to make the structural changes, but also to direct the home’s interiors. “In getting to know Tim through the walkthroughs and the closing, it was clear to us that he was the only person who could do it,” says the wife.
Once the requested additions had been made, Corrigan set out to imbue the home with a traditional aesthetic befitting its architectural beginnings, selecting furnishings, accessories and artwork—many of them antiques acquired through auction—with a decidedly English bent. “That was absolutely the right feel for this house,” he says. And, as a nod to his clients’ young children—and the couple’s propensity for large family gatherings and even larger at-home charity events—Corrigan deftly mixed in durable mate- rials and finishes that would not detract from the elegant tableaux he created.
“They stressed that this was going to be a very high-traffic, kid-friendly home,” says Corrigan. “So we did a lot of slipcovers in outdoor fabrics, for example, and a marine varnish on some of the furniture so they didn’t have to worry about spilled drinks.”
All told, the second phase of the project incorporated an additional 1,700 square feet and took a year to complete, a wait the wife says was well worth it. “My parents are Holocaust survivors, so we have no hand-me-downs, no mementos, no physical remembrances of our family history,” she says. “But this house, because it feels as if it’s been here forever, makes me feel very grounded.” And, filled as it is with beautiful things, “I now have keepsakes that are very special to me and have great meaning, and that I can one day pass down to my children.”