Palm House

The Palm House was designed and built by Dominique in 2014. It was De Bilt’s first attempt at a true Modern Farmhouse style house. Our inspiration came from a trip to Austin TX, where we considered moving for a while. We spent three days driving around all the cool Austin neighborhoods and were just blown away by the architectural styles we saw. It made California look like it was still in the stone ages. Architects and builders in Austin were really going for it, pushing the envelope so to speak.

One of our favorite design styles from that trip was Modern Farmhouse, done in the strict style, with 12:12 roof pitches and clipped roof overhangs. So when it came time to build our first spec home in Los Angeles, the decision was clear, it would be a Modern Farmhouse.

The Palm House  - A True Modern Farmhouse.

The photo above shows the finished product, which looked very close to the rendering we had done during the design phase (top of page). When we built this house there was nothing like it in West LA. Though some years later you did see the Modern Farmhouse start to pop up in Venice (Beach), and then eventually in other areas as well.

Dominique assesses progress during demolition of the old Palm House.

Above Dominique assesses the situation during demolition of the existing home, which as you can see was built of cement stone. It was owner-built by a returning GI from WWII. We planned for a two story house, and in CA earthquake country there was no way any engineer would sign up to putting that second story on top of the masonry walls of the first story.

At the same time, we could not tear down the masonry walls as we would lose our setbacks. When the original house was built, setbacks from the property lines were more generous than today, so new walls would have dictated a much smaller house. We were forced to be a bit tricky – we built new 2×6 walls “inside” the existing masonry walls. The second story was made larger than the first so that the new stick frame walls of the second story aligned vertically with the masonry walls of the first story. Thus the home looked continuous from the outside, just that the first story looked like brick and the second story was lap siding (Hardy plank).

You can see the construction sequence in this time-lapse video of the whole demolition/construction process:

During deconstruction of the original house, Dominique made sure the crew saved all the “one-by’s”, the original 1″x6″ planks that were used as roof sheathing. This was great old wood, hard and strong with lovely patina (we go nuts over patina btw). The two of use pulled all the nails and screws, then Dominique power washed the planks and after drying we stored them behind the garage to be used as decoration in the new house.

Reclaimed lumber from the original Palm House which was reused in construction of the new farmhouse.

The wood was used to clad the ceiling in the new kitchen. And I also used it to construct two sliding barn doors. You can see that here:

Kitchen in the Palm Modern Farmhouse showing the reclaimed wood on the ceiling.
Downstairs sliding barn door at the Palm Modern Farmhouse. This door was fabricated with steel and wood from the original house.
Upstairs sliding barn door at the Palm Modern Farmhouse. This door was fabricated with steel and wood from the original house.

The Palm House was really two homes, the main house up front, and a detached garage with guest house on top, out back. The main house was finished in the typical farmhouse white, but for the back house we decided to go black. We love black houses! Technically the color was by Sherwin Williams and called “Intellectual”.

Back guest house at the Palm Modern Farmhouse project. This black guest house was painted in "Intellectual" from Sherwin Williams.

You can just make out the light fixture at the front of the guest house. I made this from a vintage funnel with an LED bulb and a dusk-to-dawn sensor. It gave great ambient lighting at night.

The stairs were in the center of the house and done in a somewhat industrial style with metal hand and guard rails. The risers and treads were covered in sisal.

Stairway at the Palm Modern Farmhouse with industrial mill scale steel hand rails and guard rails.

Although we did consider moving into this house, we eventually decided to sell it, and it sold for full asking price during framing. So we never needed to have it photographed for marketing purposes. We should have had it done anyway, but didn’t, which we regret. So all the photos here were taken with an iPhone 6, unfortunately.

In case you like to study floor plans, here are the 1st and 2nd story plans for the Palm:

Floor plan for the 1st floor of the Palm Modern Farmhouse.
Floor plan for the 2nd floor of the Palm Modern Farmhouse.

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