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Photography by Laure Joliet

Sometimes the smallest homes can present the biggest opportunities. That was the case with this petite Spanish-style bungalow tucked into a very walkable West Hollywood neighborhood. Perfectly appointed and filled with effortless charm, the 1,600-square-foot retreat is packed with sunshine and embodies easy California living.

“When you have a small footprint, you can choose finishes and materials that cost slightly more than you might have spent if the house were much larger,” Minneapolis interior designer Martha Dayton points out. “We wanted this home to be cohesive but to have some playful moments, too.”

That playfulness starts outside the home, then works its way inside. That’s because from day one, the Minnesota-based client wanted to take full advantage of the outdoor living areas. “Since we don’t get to be outside year-round in Minnesota, it was important to prioritize the outside as much as the inside,” the owner says. “I really viewed the backyard as an extension of the interior spaces, so this is true indoor/outdoor living.”

To achieve this, not one but four sets of doors open onto an intimate terrace where dining, relaxing and reading take center stage. Crafted with help from Elizabeth Low of Elow Landscape Design and Build of Los Angeles, the space boasts a tidy garden area where raised beds are brimming with lush flora. “Because the yard is on the smaller side, our goal was to have a cohesive planting plan that would flow from the inside out,” Low explains. “Now, every window in the house looks out at something green.”

For vertical appeal, Dayton worked with Low to add tall black lattice panels along with lemon, lime and kumquat trees, which happily produce fresh fruit ready for the picking. Paired with drifts of lavender and white geraniums, the terrace has the feel of a secret garden, with a built-in stucco banquette for added seating.

But it’s the diminutive pool that sets the tone for these open-air rooms, with its vibrant custom-made cobalt blue tile from California Pottery & Tile Works. A ceramic fountain, meanwhile, adds a splash of Mediterranean chicness. “Honestly, this house just lends itself to having people over and spending time in the backyard,” says the owner. “I am happiest at dusk when the fireplace is on, the pool fountain is bubbling, and friends and family are sitting around.”

Of course, this style of effortless living is a hallmark of Martha Dayton Design, which brings a sense of functionality and finesse to every project, be it a renovation in South Minneapolis or a retreat south of the U.S. border. The award-winning team has spent the past two decades collaborating with builders and architects to create lasting homes that feel like sanctuaries.

The firm accomplished that in this bungalow by honoring the home’s original 1929 architecture. The plan was to build on the Craftsman aesthetic, adding rounded archways to bring in some softness. “We could see the structure had good bones, and we wanted to preserve that,” says Mark Caputo of boutique California builder Caputo Construction. “The house is very inviting — you walk in, and it’s like a jewel box. I have built bigger homes, but this one took just as much effort with all the same trades and finishes.”

You see this commitment to quality with the two custom-stained front doors, which make for a grand entrance indeed. Painstakingly hand carved in oak, the intricate motif speaks to the bungalow’s Mediterranean influences. The team worked closely with Arte de Mexico in North Hollywood to achieve this tour de force — one of the project’s great splurges. “The front doors are very elegant, with great Old World charm,” Caputo says. “Not what some would expect to see in this little gem of a house in West Hollywood.”

Once through the front door, it’s the organic texture of the flooring that greets you, seamlessly connecting one room to the next. Composed of custom-stained white oak, the handsome herringbone pattern comes courtesy of WD Flooring in Minneapolis. “The wood floor adds the necessary warmth since the walls are white (Benjamin Moore White Dove) and the windows are black,” Dayton explains. “The goal in the living and dining rooms was to create a space that could fit 10 people yet still feel open and welcoming.”

But perhaps the most joyous aspect inside the home is the lively ceramic tile found throughout. You’ll see this in the kitchen, where the island is dressed up in a graphic pattern of blue, gray and white (Walker Zanger Duquesa Fatima Mezzanotte). Ditto in the primary suite, where a spacious shower sports a powerful punch with crisp black-and-white tile (Country Floors Bavi 2). Carved into that shower tile is a last-minute transom window that brings in loads of natural light. No surprise, that little detail quickly became one of the most beloved features. “The client wanted a black-and-white bathroom, but we didn’t want it to go too cold, so having a custom-designed vanity made out of white oak was really important in the space,” Dayton adds.

To be sure, it’s the dozens of inspired design touches that make this home so enchanting — a cherished warm-weather escape where friends and family can sit back and indulge in some serious California dreaming. “Although the best part of this home is the outdoor living, there’s no question I love the entire house,” the owner says. “I love the ease of single-story living and the simplicity of a small house. It’s amazing how little space we need when it’s well thought out like this.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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