Clare Crespo enjoys poking fun at Silver Lake, the Los Angeles neighborhood historically associated with all things bohemian, indie, alternative, and artsy. She calls the area Fraggle Rock, a reference to Jim Henson’s hallucinogenic 1980s television puppet show of the same name about a group of zany characters inhabiting a fantasy world all their own. Of course, among the stalwarts of Silver Lake, few are as archetypally Fragglicious as Crespo herself and her husband, James Chinlund. She’s an artist, designer, and conjuror of gorgeous, magical things sprinkled with pixie dust. Chinlund is a fellow dream weaver, a production designer whose credits include movies such as The Batman and Requiem for a Dream. Together, they are two of the brightest stars in Silver Lake’s firmament of eccentrics and oddballs.
Yet despite their creative bona fides, the couple’s own 1950s-era home had until recently been somewhat short on enchantment—one of those cobbler’s children without shoes situations. “Seventeen years ago, we purchased the most boring, nondescript house in the world,” Chinlund recalls. “We convinced ourselves that we could make something great out of it,” Crespo adds. “But then life happened, and we got busy with work and family. Now, after nearly two decades, we finally had the time and the will to do something.”
The renovation of Casa Crespo-Chinlund is a testament to the transformative power of a few carefully plotted architectural interventions and material shifts. Chinlund found kindred spirits in architect Alan Koch and designer Karen Spector of the firm Lovers Unite, his collaborators on the project. “The house sits on a great site, but it never really took advantage of its natural assets,” Koch says of the mission. The absorption of an underutilized outdoor balcony at the back of the house into the interior—the renovation’s boldest move—provides a literal case in point for leveraging natural assets. “By bringing that space inside we were able to create a whole new social arena. The new bench is where people naturally gravitate,” Koch says, describing the generous built-in banquette that now stretches out beneath the window wall.
“You never really felt the amazing view unless you physically went out onto the balcony. It was like an extra layer between you and the landscape,” Crespo explains. “Now, the view is the main event. I can’t believe the birds we see, even though they’re the same birds and the same yard that have always been there.”