people often complain of the traffic in LA, and yes, the stories are true- it's hideous! but like a new yorker lives with noise, a seattle-ite lives with rain, or a floridian lives with humidity, one learns to adapt and you just deal with it as best as you can. depending on the time of day, some trips that should take 15 minutes take 45, and if you need to be somewhere at 9 am or 6 pm, you can count on the longer times. you just have to be zen about it, and accept. use your drive time to relax and contemplate. ;-)
of course, easier said then done, and instead of zen, m21 often finds himself seeing red and succumbing to a wee bit o' road rage if we happen to find ourselves caught out at the wrong time of the commute. like the other day, cruising down venice blvd at the mind-numbingly glacial pace of 7 miles per hour. no accidents- just nice, normal people trying to get to the freeway and home to their families in the valley or south bay; but at 4:30 pm on friday, m21 hated each and every one of them!
so he tried to ditch 'em, and take smaller side streets, and that's when m21's rage and contempt turned into gratitude; and all those people he was hating and bitching about moments before, he instead wanted to thank, because they caused him to randomly stumble upon something he's never seen before in his 20 years of LA livin: on a tiny, nondescript stretch of road, in somewhat gritty urban culver city (a city within metro LA), m21 was transported out of modern day traffic and into a fairyland of a past that never was...
spread over two lots on this tiny urban street (almost an alley) was what looked like a village out of hansel and gretel or the hobbit...a compound of a single family home, and two adjacent apartment buildings, all built in the most whimsical, fantastical story book style- shingled domes and crooked roofs, timbered walls, multi-paned asymmetrical windows- all surrounded by moats, and ponds ,and cobblestone courts. completely charming and peaceful, and if it weren't for hideous LA traffic, m21 would have never stumbled on it - a silver lining if ever there was one.even more amazing to m21 was the above plaque, declaring the structure to be one man's unique vision, built between 1946 and 1970. love that! and really, this gentleman was not designing according to a trend- storybook architecture was a style that peaked in the twenties (it's scattered throughout LA, and other cities across the US), but outside of disneyland and disneyworld, it was a style that completely fell out of favor after the depression, so this really was his idiosyncratic dream of how he wanted to live- always so much more interesting then a mass produced style, donchyathink?
maison21 is passingly familiar with the storybook style because his own miracle mile district neighborhood, developed in the boom times of the 1920's, is riddled with cute little storybook homes- though decidedly less eccentric then our culver city friend above (and semi-mass produced). lots of steeply pitched roofs, gothic details, arched windows and doors, half-timbering, etc. - it's really quite charming. our neighborhood is nice, but modest, with a majority of 2 & 3 bedroom homes with a smattering of duplexes and small apartment houses, bordered by broader avenues with business development (the original developers actually thought about the use of the neighborhood. how refreshing- wish they still did that)! the majority of the houses in the neighborhood are also spanish style (not story book) the most widely popular stye of the period in LA and m21's own triplex is spanish style- kinda. it was started in the spanish style and one unit was completed in the late 1920's. the crash of 1929 put a halt to construction for several years, and once funds became available to continue, styles had changed and streamline moderne was the look of the moment, so the 2 unfinished townhomes were completed in a very different style and builder tied all three units together with a spanish style tile roof. the result, is well... quirky, and we love it.
here's a nearby street where m21 walks mona everyday, with a long row of storybook influence homes. note the first house on the left with it's 1960's alterations of a lava rock facade and cinderblock patio- maybe not the most tasteful reno, but at least they didn't tear it down in the 80's and build a mcmansion! m21's neighborhood escaped a lot of the frightening renos of the ensuing decades because it fell out of fashion (read: wasn't so nice) and by the time of its renaissance in the 90's, people had come to respect the charming original architecture, and were willing to pay a premium to get and preserve it (thank god). many similar neighborhoods to the north of ours weren't so lucky and are riddled with lot-filling monsters completely out of scale and style with the older homes...
this house is one of our faves- kept up, but with all the original charm intact- that little turret for the front door couldn't be any cuter; plus, it forms a petit entry vestibule so you don't walk directly into the living room- a m21 pet-peeve:
couldn't you see this front door in hansel and gretel? a little brick cottage in the woods? 'cept for the cactus of course- they are somewhat rare in the black forests of germany, we think. ;-)
another prettily preserved example, below. a hallmark of our neighborhood is most of the garages are set to the backs of the houses, and the homes sit close to the street (you can see a carport to the left on the below example). we wish all neighborhoods were developed like this, instead of the sea of ugly garage doors you see now- so much more pleasing to view homes' main facades as aesthetic wholes, rather then as something tacked on to freakin' car storage! another quirky note- since most garages and driveways were developed for model-t type vehicles in our 'hood, it means they are skinnnny, and most people prefer to park on the street in front of their homes. while this leads to lots of cars on view, it also means that neighbors in our 'hood actually interact with one another, rather then pressing a button to disappear inside their attached garage when they come home at night, never to be seen again until they leave (inside their car) the next morning. it's really quite nice, and helps to create a real community.
another favorite below, though hard to see the charm because of the greenery. note the tall chimney with the haphazard, exposed brickwork- a signature of the storybook style. we lost a lot of them in the 1994 northridge quake, and the ones that survived (or were rebuilt) are all now reinforced with with metal supports connecting them to the homes' peaked roofs. (another side note- our next door neighbor collected the fallen and discarded bricks from the chimneys not being restored after the quake, and built his patio out of them)!
if you want to learn more about storybook architecture, here is a great description of the quirky styles and some pictures of examples of buildings from all over (not just our little hood) at storybookers.com.
hope you enjoyed our trapped in traffic fairy tale discovery, and the mini-tour of the 'hood!