Eight years ago, Riona Nakaya was living in Auckland with her husband Michael Cosentino and their two children when her mother Maggie lost her 37-year-old partner.

Like many members of Generation X, the 47-year-old Rion faced a familiar challenge 400 miles away: trying to monitor the well-being of parents who are mobile and comfortable at home, but with a fixed income and overwhelmed by the demands of the 90-year-old. house.

When Tudor’s 1926 maintenance in South Pasadena became too much for Maggie, who is now 70, the couple seriously moved to move her to the Gulf area in 2016.

“We wanted to be closer to my mother, and at first I thought she might move here,” says Rion, digital producer, founder and editor of the free educational video resource Kid Should See This for educators and families.

“My goal was to be close to her and get the kids to get to know her.”

For more than a year the couple was looking for an inexpensive rental for Maggie, which was within walking distance of their rental in Auckland. They were also looking for real estate in the East Bay where they could all be accommodated. But amid rising generations – a recent Pew Research Center study found that 60 million Americans, or four times more than in 1971, lived in multi-generational housing – and soaring real estate prices, the family decided that it makes more sense to move to South Pasadena and renovate Rion’s childhood home.

“I was making more money, but living was getting harder,” Michael says of the problems of buying a home in California. “We’ve heard stories of people coming up with money for technology and buying homes for cash.”

The garage, converted into an ADU, faces the main house, with a separate entrance from the side.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

For Nakai and Cosentino, the question for the house in South Pasadena was not only about renovating the kitchen and updating the ventilation, but also about how the three generations can live comfortably together, respecting Maggie’s need for privacy and independence.

The answer came in converting a separate garage into an additional 550-square-foot apartment block, otherwise known as ADU or Grandma’s Apartment, for Maggie, who is now 70.

The main house, which has degenerated over the years after delayed maintenance, will also need a complete overhaul, including the master bedroom extension, which was in disrepair, exterior stucco, roof, siding, water-damaged and worn-out interiors.

Seeing the work of Medium Plenty from Northern California in Auckland, Cosentina, a senior producer at KPCC, and Nakaya turned to firm architects Gretchen Krebs and Jan Reed for help in renovating the property.

The married architects realized the couple’s gratitude for modern mid-century architecture and Scandinavian and Japanese design, as well as their desire to create two distinctly different homes for three generations.

The couple stands on their deck

Riona Nakaya and Michael Cosentina moved from the Bay Area to be closer to Riona’s mother.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“We also thought a lot about it,” Reed says of the problems of aging on the ground. “Our parents have different health and economic conditions. We understood that it was necessary to create enough space for people to have autonomy among themselves, as well as an area where they could join the community. “

But repairs will be difficult. Because the house is located in the historic South Pasadena area, the architects had to maintain the quality of a single-family home, such as a Tudor-language facade that faces the street, and design an ADU that would be visible from the street to look like a garage.

This did not stop them from pushing the envelope behind, where they designed a completely modern exterior with dramatic pitched roofs adorned with bold black windows, diagonal cedar siding on the master bedroom extension and a black lattice lattice extending the back of the bedroom. kitchen and echoes the black trim on the windows.

“We were so limited in the front, so the back was a place where you could go the other way using some of the references at home,” Krebs says. “It’s so much fun to walk behind and see a completely different house.”

The back of a modern house overlooking the courtyard

View of the courtyard that connects the main house with the ADU.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

In its new manifestation the main house is only slightly larger: 1,636 square feet instead of 1,446. It also has an open floor plan, several dormer windows that bathe the interiors in bright and warm wooden cabinets for family books and accessories.

While the living room remained intact, including the house’s original fireplace and covered ceilings, all interiors were destroyed to create a more flexible floor plan with easy flow for the couple’s children – Clementine, 11, and Dante, 14 – other members family. and friends.

Living room with fireplace

The living room of the newly renovated house has preserved the original fireplace and covered ceiling.

(Jason Armand / Los Angeles Times)

The wall separating the kitchen from the backyard has now disappeared, creating an open, light-filled space that overlooks the courtyard and a new common deck that serves as a bridge between the house and the ADU.

“We wanted to open it,” Rion says. “The house was so dark, and in Medium Plenty were added large windows, Nanawall and dormer windows that create a sense of nature. We live in a tree-friendly city, and there are so many birds and squirrels in the neighborhood. That makes a big difference. ”

Awnings and garage conversion ADU

The entrance to the ADU faces away from the main house and the street.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

A small layout has preserved the yard on a long and narrow plot, leaving room for a basketball hoop, an open dining room and drought-resistant and edible Rio horticulture projects. The architects also increased the space by adding a built-in storage in the garage and a main house and attic over most of the rooms.

Adding to the courtyard a modern feel, the architects lined the exterior of the ADU with diagonal cedar planks, similar to the master bedroom. Closed from the yard and the street, Maggie’s home faces away from the main house, with separate entrances on the side and back, where her door opens onto a fenced yard that provides ample space for her dogs.

“The existing building layout was a good fit for ADU because it’s all on the same level,” Krebs says. “Families can be around and then be able to get together.”

A blue wall with a bookshelf opposite and an attic at the top

The interior of the South Pasadena ADU has a loft.

(Marika Reed)

For Maggie the ADU should be big enough to make her feel comfortable and cozy, but not so big that maintenance would be a problem. The architects installed linoleum floors, a small Ikea kitchen with hand-made fronts, dormer windows, a bathroom with shower for easy entry and a storage loft.

“She didn’t want it to feel clinically,” Reed says. “She wanted a colorful, clean box for her things and antiques.”

Kitchen with wooden cabinets and white countertops

Architects Jan Reed and Gretchen Krebs of Medium Plenty designed the open kitchen with entertainment.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Asked if they had any advice for homeowners considering ADUs, the architects said it was important to clarify construction instructions before proceeding.

“It seems like an ADU is much smaller than a house, but it’s still a house,” Reed says. At the time of completion in October 2021, ADU South Pasadena cost about $ 250,000, but according to the architects, today it will cost twice as much due to supply chains and work problems. “Clearly clarify what the instructions will be. You can invest a lot of money in a project and find out that you are not eligible for permits, or you will have to do an upgrade and it will cost much more than you think. ”

Wooden dining table with flowers on it, a lamp with a bubble at the top and a photo on the back wall

A photo in the dining room captures the children of the couple at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-seven years after moving, Rion has returned home to Los Angeles County, which she said has changed immensely for her absence.

Prior to the pandemic, she intended to take friends to the family’s new open kitchen, which was specifically designed for entertainment. She also hoped to support her uncle, her mother’s older brother, who had cancer for years before he died in 2020.

However, much remains the same. Her high school principal lives down the street. Her children study in the same schools as in their youth.

Dining table with white flowers as seen from the deck through the open glass doors

Sliding NanaWall opens the kitchen and dining room to the street.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The hotel feels like a modern outdoor getaway with a sense of a small town, and the couple is happy with the overall feel of home. “We have dinner with my mom several times a week,” Rion says. “Pizza on Monday. We send children with her mail and they help her wash the dogs. ”

Michael, who is also 47, adds: “I knew [Maggie] it’s been over 20 years, but I never met her because we didn’t live nearby. Now that we see each other so often, I have the opportunity to get to know her as never before. ”

Bowls on kitchen shelves above the counter

The couple is a fan of Midcentury design, Scandinavian and Japanese design.

(Jason Armand / Los Angeles Times)

Working in the technology industry, the couple for many years led a nomadic lifestyle, living in Brooklyn, London, Paris and the Gulf region. Now that they have taken root in South Pasadena, they say their children have what they cherished when they grew up: a relationship with a grandmother.

“Spending time with your mother is an absolute gift,” says Rion. “We think we are very lucky.”

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