It had me at hello,” says the owner of a Hancock Park abode, recalling the moment she first stood in its entrance. “We wanted a Mediterranean-style home, and this one felt right. I thought, ‘This is it!’ ” Soon after, she connected with architect William Hefner, whose own nearby home she had spotted in a magazine several years before. “I reached out to him to come and see the house, and then he showed us his home, too.” With that, a team took shape—Hefner bringing on general contractor Asher Alfasi, and the wife calling on interior designer Rodrigo Vargas, a friend and neighbor.
“This is a pretty grand house,” says Hefner of the 1925 Spanish Colonial Revival design. “There was wonderful character—stenciled beams in the living room, the wood-paneled library—so those well-preserved existing materials informed the project.” Originally built by architect Henry F. Withey, the home was immediately recognized as a prime example of the style, even garnering the cover of a 1926 issue of an early California homes magazine. Hefner’s renovation was complete but respectful. In keeping with local ordinances, the front façade was unchanged (it simply received rosemary groundcover and a few new olive trees). Still, with greater freedom at the rear of the house, the architect made significant, yet almost imperceptible, changes.
“We broke the house down in terms of access to the backyard,” Hefner explains. “People didn’t live the indoor-outdoor lifestyle back then, and there was just a funny little door to the outside. We needed to connect the home to the landscape while preserving its original character.” Working with Nathalie Aragno, a principal at his firm, Hefner designed new steel windows and doors to link the primary rooms to the loggia and converted the old kitchen and staff quarters into a new two-story wing. On the ground floor are family spaces, while upstairs is the couple’s bedroom suite and a terrace—an added benefit of the new loggia. “This was pretty smooth sailing for a historic home renovation,” observes Alfasi, who replaced all of the drywall but didn’t touch the ceilings. “It’s a very special house, like an old Italian villa. I still think, ‘Look at that, look at what we did!’ ” he says contentedly.
“It’s magnificent,” adds Vargas of the renovation, explaining that he always strives to honor the architecture as well as his clients. In this case, it was especially meaningful, as the husband and wife are friends of nearly 20 years. To create the feeling of timelessness the wife wanted, Vargas started with neutrals. “I love the restraint of working with a limited palette and expanding it with texture that mirrors the architecture,” he explains. “A lot of the house’s details stand out now. Nothing is competing.”
To furnish the home, Vargas and his associates, Danielle Fox and Heather Soliday, focused on custom pieces, like the living room’s coffee table, carpet and ebonized chests of drawers. They also crafted impeccable offices for the couple. The husband’s takes on an Art Deco vibe with its Macassar ebony tub chair and tuxedo-style sofa, while the wife’s office features a desk hand-painted by Ojai-based decorative artist Jacqueline Moore. The sole piece brought from the couple’s previous residence is the Indian chest in their bedroom. “I wanted this house to be a little eclectic,” shares the wife.
The neutral palette continues on the loggia, designed to be a second living and dining room. It’s also where Hefner’s talent for garden design comes into view. “The idea was to keep things simple, so it’s just roses around the fountain, wisteria on the pergola, and cypress trees in the back. It’s serene and green,” he says, noting the work of his firm’s landscape architect Dennis Hardesty.
While it may have taken time for the homeowners to find their ideal abode and bring it to fruition, the wait was well worth it. Not only is it everything they hoped for in terms of square footage and outdoor space, but it is also a mere 5 blocks away from their previous residence, which meant they didn’t have to say goodbye to the neighborhood and beloved traditions like progressive dinners—and now entertaining is a breeze. “The whole process was so rewarding,” adds the wife. “It’s one thing to see the plans but another to walk in and see the spaces. It was fun! It all just came together.”