The former home of Roy O. Disney and his family in Toluca Lake has undergone a complete and total renovation by Krueger Architects of Los Angeles.  A classic, storybook cottage, the charm of the home was maintained, while modernized with a nod to simplicity and clean lines where appropriate.  The project added a new second story, refurbished the entire exterior and grounds, and reworked the floorplan to expand the kitchen, add home offices and an informal den, and move the bedrooms up to the second story.

Historic, Storybook Home in Toluca Lake Once Owned by Roy O. Disney Restored and Renovated to Add Modern Elements while Honoring the Classic Style

A Storied History

First, we needed to determine where the staircase would go for access to the new second story addition. This would dictate the floorplan for both the upper and lower levels. Of further consideration, the home is situated on a corner lot with high visibility from many angles on the street. In order to maintain the massings and proportions of this classic cottage, the second story addition needed to fit within the existing roofline. The placement of the stairwell became a design opportunity when we decided to wrap it around the existing brick fireplace in the living room and to vault the ceiling. The stairwell ceiling is clad in a medium-tone, stained hemlock with a large skylight that brings natural light into the interior spaces of the home while creating visual interest with all of the angles. The contrast of light and dark is an important element repeated in the home’s exterior and interior.   The darker Hemlock is also used on the ceilings of the second story back porch and the lower patio. The home’s stucco-and-brick exterior is painted white. The roof’s deep gray color and a light gray, precast concrete brick used throughout on window surrounds punctuate the white of the facade. New, black metal windows and several sets of new, floor-to-ceiling, all-clad doors by Loewen bring modern lines to the renovation.  An original, octagonal-shaped stained glass window flanks the front door showing the balance of modern elements, while highlighting the home’s original charm.

The interior spaces were designed to reflect the timeless elements of the early 1940s and were brought to life by homeowner Sarah Whitney through her design firm, Neighborhood Design Company. Warm white interior walls and trim, white oak floors , blonde wood accents, and brass contrast with the sophisticated pallet of moody colors of deep emerald green, charcoal gray, and near midnight black found on walls, trim, and cabinetry. Custom tiles for the floors, backsplashes, bathrooms, and the walk-in-pantry were all sourced by Whitney. Whitney selected all the hardware and fixtures, which while modern in manufacture, speak to a time of craftsmanship and elegant details. The residence also showcases a curated collection of Disney memorabilia, art pieces, and collectibles that reflect the whimsey and delight of the Disney spirit.

Versatile Entertainment Spaces

The redesign emphasizes creating versatile entertainment spaces to accommodate gatherings large and small, including a cozy screening room featuring state-of-the-art technology and a spacious patio of dark cobblestone, which is a perfect setting for al fresco dining in the private, walled garden at the home’s rear. The outdoor areas were designed with both functionality and the joy of entertainment in mind. Sculpted trees, vibrant flora, edible landscapes, and layering of fragrances offer subtle nods to iconic Disney imagery and create an immersive outdoor experience. Low-water, desert landscaping using native California plantings and crushed rock keeps maintenance to a minimum. A cozy firepit area, an outdoor kitchen with cast-in place concrete counters for the grill, string lights hung overhead, and a large dining table all make nighttime entertaining magical.

The formal garden at the street front entry was also refurbished. A fountain sits in the center of the courtyard and a playful arrangement of gardenias and lavender welcomes guests, thanks to the landscape design provided by local firm, Benincasa Collective. The neighborhood is well known for its #epicHolidayDisplays with residents making elaborate outdoor sets by using props and animatronics in celebration of the Halloween and Christmas seasons. In fact, we designed a tall and narrow window in the gable of the roofline specifically to display the family’s Christmas tree and other holiday vignettes. Roy O. Disney’s Toluca Lake residence, a place rich in history and creativity, provided a unique canvas for a transformative redesign. The homeowners had the vision to remodel this quintessential storybook cottage, and the home now looks as if it had always been this way, with its modern update blending seamlessly into the neighborhood.


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