Nearly two years after moving into their house on Strohm Avenue, Anne and Jose Alvarez are still captivated by the European and Hawaiian influences of the architecture and landscaping, the oasis-like backyard and the warm and distinctive character of their home (appropriately nicknamed “Strohm Home”).
“We still love looking around and discovering and appreciating the architecture, arches, unique custom features and built-ins, and the stone fireplaces — it all helps tell the history of the house,” Anne says. “The way the light falls into certain rooms still surprises us sometimes. Different times of the day and different times of the year seem to tell a different story.”
Initially drawn to Toluca Lake because of the small-town ambiance and great sense of community, Anne vividly remembers the first time she set foot in her home. “When we walked into our house to look at it for the first time, it felt like a dream,” she says. “The home was beautiful inside and out. We had seen many houses that were very nice, but when we walked into this house, we knew this was the one. As a photographer, the architecture, lighting and landscaping being so picturesque was a huge attraction and inspired creativity.”
With their imaginations sparked, the couple wasted little time brightening up the front yard with bougainvillea, hibiscus and rockrose plants to meet their tropical and Mediterranean desires, as well as oleander and touches of color throughout the backyard.
“We started this process within a six-month period of moving in, and we are still adding,” Anne says. “We had some very strong ideas, and we spoke to our awesome gardener, who was able to bring our vision to life. Overall, we didn’t do that much, as the house didn’t need a lot of improvements. We did some cosmetic touches and painted a few of the rooms, including the main bed and bath, the office and some hallways.”
Throughout stay-at-home orders and the COVID-19 pandemic, Anne and Jose often enjoy the fruits of their personal paradise by “sitting outside under our patio in the afternoons and evenings with wine and tapas.” Anne has even used the lemons and oranges from her trees to make limoncello and orangecello, refreshing drinks made from fruit peels, water, sugar and vodka (or grain alcohol).
“Being able to sit outside and relax in our beautiful yard has brought us a lot of comfort, and sometimes, even bringing the laptop out and being able to work in that setting makes things a little easier,” says Anne, who works for Walt Disney Studios with her husband. “I also meditate outside on the patio or on our lounge chairs. The yard has multiple water features that enhance the relaxation, as well as a pool for exercise and enjoyment. We also enjoy having people over during the holidays, entertaining friends over dinner and hosting an Oscars party every year.”
As for future home improvements, Anne and Jose have big plans in mind: “We are in the early planning stages of a kitchen expansion, front entrance update, garage conversion and new garage addition.”