Canyon ranch house by Susan Jay Design. Original photo on Houzz
Canyon ranch house by Susan Jay Design. Original photo on Houzz

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A drive down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles will take you through plenty of ritzy, well-known areas — Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air. But a little farther west, just over the 405 freeway, you’ll hit an unlikely landscape: a rustic canyon where horse trails and farm-recalling nature are the way of life. Welcome to Brentwood, one of the most desired places to live in fast-paced L.A.

It’s here that a California ranch house in Sullivan Canyon caught the eye of an author and her entertainment producer husband, who were looking for a nature-hugging property for themselves and their teenage son and daughter, three horses, four dogs, a duck and six chickens.

But the house hadn’t been touched since its construction in the 1970s. Windows were rotting; plumbing fixtures were old; and outdated fixtures, like pea-green sinks in the master suite, were rampant. What’s more, the city wouldn’t allow any additions to the house, since fire codes would have required the homeowners to widen the narrow canyon road by 4 feet to accommodate fire vehicles, which was impossible.

The couple begged their designer, Susan Jay, to come to the run-down house and gauge its potential. “It was not in good shape,” Jay says. “But the land surrounding it was magical. So they asked me, if they bought it, could we make it something special?” 13 Inspiring Ranch Renovations.

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Houzz at a Glance

  • Who lives here: A family of 4 and several pets
  • Location: Brentwood
  • Size: 3,900 square feet; 5 bedrooms

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Having to stay within the original structure’s footprint, Jay took the house down to the studs and approached the revamp carefully. “It was my job to use every inch effectively,” she says. Knowing that the family loves cooking and entertaining, the designer made the kitchen and dining spaces the hub of the house.

With surrounding views of organic things like trees and rocks, Jay stuck with natural materials. Wood ceilings and American walnut floors are highlighted with hickory cabinets, a reclaimed live-edge walnut island counter and stone countertops.

BEFORE: This wooden post dictated the previous kitchen layout. Without it, Jay pushed the kitchen workspaces to the opposite side near large windows and beneath the skylight.

American walnut replaced the terra-cotta floors throughout the house.

AFTER: By removing the wood post and adding a room-spanning steel girder on the ceiling, Jay was able to drastically open up and reconfigure the kitchen space. The wooden post would have been right on top of where this table now sits. The entertainment producer’s father made the table and chairs by hand in the 1950s.

Jay camouflaged the steel beam by having it painted to look like the ceiling.

Plexiglas chairs: Plush Pod; pendant lights: Modiss

BEFORE: Stone countertops and hickory cabinets replaced this worn-out-looking blue tile. The designer also replaced all the wood-frame windows in the house with metal ones to cut down on maintenance and obstruction of views.

BEFORE: Because the city would not allow the homeowners to add square footage, they converted this garage into an office and a TV room.

AFTER: There was no insulation in the garage, so radiant-heat flooring and a wall-mounted air conditioner were added. The retractable garage door was rendered inoperable.

Bubble chair: Plush Pod; light fixtures: Rejuvenation; bookshelves: Elfa, The Container Store

Walnut and wenge cabinets hold the house’s well-stocked bar. The table and chairs are made from walnut and cherry. Updating Your Dining Set Has Never Been Easier.

Jay designed the carpet with to complement the midcentury modern colors and contemporary feeling of the space. The LED light fixture, from Water Pressure Lighting, is called the Lawn Sprinkler chandelier. It has Swarovski crystals layered in brown to green to emulate grass.

BEFORE: Concrete block wall masonry in the living room made the space feel cold. The challenge for Jay was how to seat as many people as possible in the long and narrow space.

AFTER: Furniture in a linear design, creating a conversation area as well as a TV watching area, was the solution. The fireplace was replaced with walnut bookcases and a media cabinet.

The couple wanted to have a fireplace in their master bedroom, but it would have been impossible to create an actual fireplace that needed venting, so Jay added this bioethanol-burning unit from L.A. company EcoSmart; it burns cleanly and requires no venting.

Cabinet: Wud

BEFORE: The original bathroom exuded an outdated 1970s style.

AFTER: Jay responded elegantly with a free-floating tub for spaciousness and a glass tile shower for a reflective quality. She then increased the window size and revamped the outdoor walkway area to create a private enclosed outdoor space. The overall vibe is spa-like and serene.

To further the indoor-outdoor vibe, Jay created a threshold of materials underfoot. Tile becomes Mexican pebbles.

The daughter fell in love with some Pottery Barn hanging ornaments, so Jay turned them into light fixtures. The original floors were painted a powder blue.

The one request from the son was a Narnia-like secret passageway. Jay delivered with a vintage wardrobe that hides the bathroom door. Transform an Armoire Into Something Special.

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