Curb Appeal

It matters what a house says by way of introduction–it answers the question: what type of a person lives in that house, made those stylistic choices?  Audrey Hepburn said, “know first who you are; then adorn yourself appropriately,” but, depending on the impression I intend to make, and on whom, I alter my costume.  A house can change with the seasons, but architecture is more permanent than a pantsuit.

I grew up in a tall white colonial house in San Marino, California with a centered red brick entry and four elegant pillars which held the symmetrical frontispiece.  Windows up and down flanked the entry evenly and azaleas, I think, softened the facade.  A lovely lawn was accented by one stately liquid amber, and on the county strip, a great gentrified oak established its permanence.

When my parents built on a lot in Pasadena, near California and Grand, surrounded by restored Craftsmans (although not right next door), they purposely chose a stately and tasteful front, still red brick and white, with the same permanence and chose a style intended to blend in.

Although Art joked that he was going to duplicate my first organic home into a tract (just flipping it alternately in dark wood and light), this house would struggle to blend in. By design, the approach, banked by honeysuckle vines with oaks reaching to meet overhead, follows the curved drive which suspends and delays the surprise:



(I probably can present that more dramatically in a series).

When we remodeled my grandparents’ traditional ranch house across the street, but visible from the road, I was frustrated that a visitor drove up to the electrical box and the two-car garage.  Ultimately, we converted the garage to a living room/entry and moved the front door to the front.


(I planted a crepe myrtle strategically in front of the electrical box–that’s Dani’s first day of kindergarten 1993)



(I can’t find a photo of the front entry without people–Thanksgiving senior year 2004)

So, the Lapp RiverHouse would be seen not only from the road, but also from the river.  “Know first who you are; then adorn yourself accordingly,” Ms. Hepburn says. What type of people live in this house, made these stylistic choices? As my parents wanted to blend in in their neighborhood, so did we.  Our context is the land, the hills and the river, smooth flowing shapes animated by the wind.  We wanted to welcome guests, whether one or many, to a stately, artistic, comfortable dwelling, but we didn’t want to overstate or attract too much attention from commuters on their way to their homes up the hill.



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