When John Ly would drive to his job at a nearby studio, he’d pass by the stunning estates throughout Toluca Lake and envision one day living there with his wife, Maria. After checking that goal off their list by moving to the neighborhood nearly 20 years ago, the Lys next set their sights on finding their dream home.
Expecting their second child and realizing they needed room to accommodate their growing family, the couple set out to create the perfect home themselves by transforming their 900-square-foot house on Rose Street — which they’d moved into in 2013 — into a sprawling 2,400-square-foot modern farmhouse.
“After finding out baby Olivia was on her way, we knew that we needed a lot more space for baby number two,” John says. “We started by going to the city to see how large we were permitted to build and drove around Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino, since these neighborhoods seemed to have the most modern farmhouse new builds.” Those tours helped inspire ideas for what they wanted in their own home design.
Of course, nearly tripling the size of a house doesn’t happen overnight — nor does it often happen without some obstacles along the way. The renovation turned into a three-year project that included “getting permits from the city to expand our home, finding the right materials and battling several months of delays due to COVID-19.” However, it was all worth it the moment the Lys stepped into their new home.
“We absolutely love the simplicity and look of our beautiful modern farmhouse exterior and landscape,” John says. “Our favorite part is the open space of our home. Our daughters love being able to ride their tiny scooters around the house.”
Complete with a marble kitchen island, bathroom countertop and walls, new exterior and interior lighting (from Restoration Hardware), upgraded appliances (from Sub-Zero and Wolf) and an accessory dwelling unit for extra space, the home improvement was everything the couple could have asked for and more. “We’ve received so many compliments from people in the neighborhood and have been told it looks like a model home — they also ask if it’s for sale,” John says. “Before we started the renovation, we visited several open houses that used high-end materials and finishes. We loved what we saw so much, we designed our home just like the ones we saw at the open houses.”
Playing a huge role throughout the renovation was Lydia Vilppu, a Los Angeles–based architect who came recommended by a neighbor. “Lydia provided us with many customized options to make sure we would love the end results,” John says. “We worked together to narrow down the best designs that would work for our family. What worked best for us was an open interior concept design.”
For residents looking to take on a similar project, John advises, “Be patient with the process and understand that delays are inevitable. It would be wise to be prepared for the budget and timelines going over by about 40%.”