Any architect worth their T-square is familiar with the challenge of balancing form with function. For Sonny Ward, this tension turned personal when it came time to find his family a new home. With two children in the mix, he and his husband, entertainment executive Michael Lombardo, were seeking more space and a flat lot—something more practical than their previous stepped and terraced Hollywood Hills abode. Their hunt soon narrowed to Los Angeles’ historic Hancock Park neighborhood, where they “searched and searched forever,” Ward recalls.
The Tudor-style they turned up wasn’t necessarily where they imagined themselves—its Old World-style flourishes, such as leaded windows and multiple gables, aren’t aligned with the modern or contemporary aesthetics they were seeking—yet the 1925 property undeniably checked all the right boxes. It had function and flair, and what alterations it did need were a perfect match for Ward’s skill set, equal parts new construction and historic renovation. Plus, the fact that it was owned by a single family over the course of nearly a century made it a true rarity.
The remarkably intact home also gave him a perfect opportunity to dig in (or, more accurately, geek out) when restoring and recreating its characteristic features. “A lot of L.A.’s older houses have been so altered and mucked with that, by the time you get to them, you often have to undo a lot,” Ward notes. Here, everything from the magnesite flooring to the 100-year-old trees had remained. Updating the extant historic fabric and recreating other elements while infusing the spaces with pieces that spoke to his family’s personality—a mix of bold patterns and textures enriched by a contemporary art collection—was right in his wheelhouse.
Because of the area’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zone status, Ward was especially mindful of design guidelines and regulations, taking particular care with the primary façade. The cast-stone and brick restoration involved repainting the mortar and matching a specific patina. And the architect’s other interventions included widening the rear living room doorway and contiguous outdoor patio, delicately relocating a 75-year-old pepper tree. Ward designed replacements to match the original gutter and scupper parts, plus all door and window hardware pieces were removed and polished.
He then devised various solutions to respect the residence’s physical integrity while still servicing the demands of his family. While the kitchen is now thoroughly modernized and wallpapered in a lively pattern, he opted to keep its original cozy table nook, adding leather to the existing bench. Gatherings often take place in the intimate downstairs library replete with a formidable, original fireplace and Prohibition-era bar.
And upstairs, a “meet in the middle” room serves multiple functions. Inspired by modernism and wanting to tie the abode’s 1920s roots to other events from the same period, Ward tapped artist Scott Waterman to create an immersive mural inspired by Bauhaus costume designer Oskar Schlemmer. Then, in several bathrooms, the architect meticulously recreated classic ’20s tile dimensions, favoring small-format selections with subtle tweaks to material and scale, using McIntyre Tile. (The brand new primary bath, in contrast, is strikingly contemporary.)
Lombardo and Ward’s art collection is a mix of works by emerging L.A. artists and other pieces they’ve collected throughout the years. The duo doesn’t follow any particular playbook for amassing art, prioritizing acquiring a variety of creations in different media that resonate with their sensibilities instead. Drawings, paintings and collages by local artists Shizu Saldamando, Jay Lynn Gomez and Patrick Martinez, for instance, reflect their interest in Chinatown gallerist Charlie James’ compelling roster.
Because the backyard was “completely covered in,” Ward recalls, he tapped a frequent collaborator, landscape designer Christine London, to bring a sense of order and intention to the exterior. “We created a strong visual relationship with the garden from the interior, setting up axial or compositional views, and an easy everyday functionality for the indoor-outdoor flow,” London explains. “We integrated mother nature with playful elements for two young children.” In addition to a swimming pool, she designed a lotus and koi pond at the rear of the lot, where the same fish that inhabited the couple’s previous Hollywood property now live. Ginkgo, pomegranate and citrus trees round out a scheme that skillfully integrates mature heritage trees.
“My collaboration with Sonny and Mike was highly creative, with out-of-the-box thinking, historical information and disciplined design underpinnings—and it was enormous fun,” London reflects. And if there’s any sentiment summarizing success, it’s that.