How does one restore a derelict house designed by one of the founding fathers of California modernism, updating it into a green, functional home for a young family?

This was the challenge facing architect Steven Ehrlich when he purchased a 2-bedroom, 981 square foot house designed by Rudolf M. Schindler in 1939. The house, sited on a 5,400 square-foot lot in Inglewood, is one of three single-story plaster-facade homes by Schindler on West Ellis Avenue, in Inglewood, California. In 71 years the house had had only two owners and was in original but very poor condition.

"What would Schindler do today?" became Ehrlich's guiding query. His intention was to honor and conserve the vocabulary of Schindler's work, while adding modern amenities for contemporary living.

The home is an articulated flat-roofed box, with clerestory windows and large panels of glass bringing in light and opening interior spaces to the garden. Ehrlich preserved wherever possible original materials such as wood window- and door frames, yet replaced the openings with tempered glass. Some original elements damaged beyond repair by years of neglect such as baseboards were replaced.

All walls, ceilings and roof were insulated; an asbestos FAU system was replaced with a new rooftop HVAC unit and ducting. Metal caps that had been added over the years to exterior stucco walls to keep the rain out were replaced with invisible waterproofing membranes, recapturing Schindler's crisp wall-to-roof lines.

The original brick and plaster fireplace was meticulously restored and once again serves as the natural focal point of the living room. In keeping with Schindler's inventiveness with materials and the needs of the occupants, the kitchen cabinetry was replaced and new appliances installed. A more open plan connects the kitchen to the living room. The bathroom, judged to be without historical significance, was completely redesigned and updated with modern fixtures.

The existing brick patio was relocated to the back of the garden. Ehrlich designed a galvanized steel trellis inspired by the sleeping porches of Schindler's 1922 Kings Road masterpiece to provide shade and support for a grape vine growing on the property.

Extensive new drought-resistant landscaping ties together the front yard with the neighboring Schindler-designed home, the way the modernist originally intended, to foster a sense of shared space.