Unlike most developers and home builders who are deterred by conditional use-permits, Los Angeles–based architect Martin Fenlon was excited about the prospect of working around a constraint when he purchased a lot with a 1920s bungalow in Hermon, Calif. Flexibility was a priority for the architect and his young family, says Custom Home editor Katie Gerfen, so the existing 960-square-foot residence had to be renovated.

The small site did not leave room for a yard, so Fenlon had to get creative. He moved the outdoor space to the front of the home instead of keeping it in the back or side like most traditional properties, and ran a bench along the length of the facade, which also creates a new porch and entry stair.

But for Fenlon, it was also an exercise in how to approach infill lots in gentrifying neighborhoods.

“It seems to be the trend that when people fix up these houses, they do a big fence in the front because the neighborhood is still a little rough around the edges,” Fenlon says, noting that that was his original plan as well. “But after tearing out the original fence, I really liked how open and uncluttered it was, and I realized that I could make a statement by opening it up to the street rather than closing it off.”

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