Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Celebrating a Phoenix of a Home in Los Angeles

The restored, 69-year-old home by Gregory Ain. Photo by Janna Ireland.

When Joyce Poulson was awakened by her fire alarm in the early morning of Nov. 12, 2018, she didn’t see any flames or smell smoke. She went upstairs in her butterfly-roof house in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood to try to turn off the alarm and, failing at that, called the alarm company.

“While I was on the phone a tornado of fire came up the stairs,” she said. “I had to run by it to get to the door. I don’t know how my nightgown did not catch on fire.”

By sunrise it was clear that her 1,640-square-foot, wood-frame home had burned to the studs because of an errant ember that had been trapped, invisible, between the fireplace and the wall. Her insurance company would soon call the historically important building a total loss.

Today, the 69-year-old house, originally designed by Ain, Johnson and Day for Marjorie M. Greene, an artist and early childhood educator, looks as fresh as it did in 1952. It has been painstakingly restored by Escher GuneWardena Architecture, thanks to archival research, preservation of the remaining structure and forensic reconstruction of the plans as even the original blueprints, stored in a closet in the lower floor, were burned to char.