All in the Family


Medium Plenty reconfigures an aging L.A. home into a multi-generational oasis

A Nelson Saucer Bubble pendant hangs in the living room. Photos by Mariko Reed.

“As with most of our projects, we weigh the existing conditions, the homeowners’ goals and our own modern leanings. In this case, we explored how to meld very modern upgrades/additions with a historic home, while balancing the budget,” says Gretchen Krebs, co-founder of Medium Plenty, an Oakland-based architecture firm that focuses on creating thoughtful designs for everyday living. Homeowners Michael Cosentino and Rion Nakaya, enlisted the firm to help reconfigure Nakaya’s mother’s L.A. home so that they could live all together comfortably. “Their work has a Northern Californian aesthetic we feel at home with: natural textures and materials, neutral colors, spaces flooded with light, rooms that can help reduce the visual chaos that comes with a bustling family,” says Nakaya. “We wanted to bring that aesthetic with us.”

Semi-handmade cabinets are covered in Caesarstone in the kitchen.Photos by Mariko Reed.
A Nelson Apple Bubble pendant hangs in the dining room.Photos by Mariko Reed.

With Bay Area real estate costs soaring, the couple decided to move in with Nakaya’s mother on her L.A. property that needed an overhaul in order to accommodate. What began as a single family home with just over 1,400-square-feet and a detached garage, resulted in an expanded single family home and a detached ADU totaling around 2,200-square-feet. “After 30 years of ownership, the 90-year-old home needed help,” notes Nakaya. “Floors were damaged, walls were cracked, old windows were energy-inefficient and both the kitchen and bathroom needed complete updates.”

Aside from modernizing the home, the collective goal was to covert a garage that was commonly flooded and covered in cobwebs, into a cozy, light-filled one bedroom with a storage loft that would provide Nakaya’s mother a place to live while preserving her own living space.

Photos by Mariko Reed.

The overall design direction was to bring in elements of Japanese minimalism infused with nods to mid-century modern design. “Medium Plenty found the shared aspects of those movements and, along with their studio vision, translated that into an affordable design that met the requirements set by the house’s historic codes,” says Cosentino. “Our three favorite house features are the cedar cladding on our back extension, our bookcase that wraps from the living room into the kitchen, and our front and back porch trellises, both expansions from the original house.”

On the exterior, diagonal-hung cedar planks and industrial metal framing create a refreshingly unique sense of depth and dimension that transformed the original structure. An extended porch and deck create ample outdoor living space while skylights throughout further connect the interior to the nature that surrounds. “We’re more connected to the outside greenery, local wildlife and the sky in all of its states,” notes Cosentino. “It’s very calming. And we never need to use our indoor lights during daytime hours.”

The exterior is clad in diagonally hung Cedar planks.Photos by Mariko Reed.

One silver lining of the escalating housing costs is the increasing movement towards multi-generational living and how it strengthens family units. “An additional conversation has been on our minds because of this experience: In the nine years we lived in Oakland, we watched rents and housing prices more than double, so we are grateful that we had a family home that could be renovated within our budget,” says Nakaya.”That luck, along with California’s recent support of ADU builds and conversions to create more affordable housing, is what made this two-part renovation possible. Being able to build a multi-generational home while still retaining everyone’s independent personal spaces feels like a phenomenal feat. I’m incredibly grateful for it, particularly after the last two years.”