Let’s talk about L.A. real estate! Virgil Village is a part of Hollywood that is still up-and-coming. There’s “Sqrl”, a cafe in the area that people are flocking to for allegedly the best coffee in LA, although I can only vouch for the fantastic food. In terms of real-estate locations, the area is prime for re-positioning, as people who are being priced out of Los Feliz and Silverlake by high rents are looking for the next best thing.
My client is 3SC Capital Partners, a real-estate development team that includes my husband. They bought this 12-unit building last summer, and have steadily transformed it from a frankly pretty dirty and unsafe place to live, to a clean, inviting and more secure apartment building. I have worked with them, advising on all the design.
It’s fun for me to mix projects like this in with my residential work, which is so much more about the style and personal preferences of my client. Multi-family is very different because the clients are always interested in making quick decisions and keeping things moving. I have to think like an entrepreneur when I’m recommending anything as a designer -everything is about potential return on investment. At the same time, savvy developers recognize that good design goes a long way, especially here in Los Angeles, so the transformations can be very satisfying creatively.
This is what the building looked like before. The only thing I was excited about was the banana tree (it’s big and architectural and does a lot to soften the austere boxiness of the place), although the rose bushes that surrounded it didn’t look right.
Naturally, I wanted to paint the whole building for a fresh start. The beige felt so dated and blah! Unfortunately, a budget for this kind of building renovation has to cover un-sexy capital improvements like plumbing and electrical before anything else, and quotes from painters to do the entire exterior would blow your mind. I was kind of stuck with the beige, but the compromise to only paint parts of the building worked out well to accentuate the interesting parts of the architecture and give the whole place a noticeably fresh look.
We tested a bunch of blues, needing one for the stucco and another for the metal railing. We also tested grays for the taller fences we were adding to better secure the sides of the building. The paints we selected were Behr Heron (stucco), Bayside (railing) and Creek Bend (fence). One of the most important elements of the re-positioning of the property was to give the building an identity. “The Virg” is short for Virgil – the name of the building’s street. Yes, we considered whether people would mistakenly pronounce it like “Virgo” if you dropped the “O”. And we decided that our targeted renters would get it. We wanted the logo to give the place a bit of a comfortably nostalgic-but-fresh feeling, and the font to have some curves to balance the boxiness of the 1980’s building. A pop of red or orange for contrast was another thing we thought the signage needed. We were really pleased with how well graphic designer Sarah Tacoma interpreted our ideas into this logo. The lines radiating from the dot on the “i” in a flash of red is design magic to me!
We replaced the rose bushes with plantings that were better suited to our SoCal climate, requiring less water.
This is what the side of the of the building looked like before. Here she is from the 101 freeway now. Fresher. Less “institutional”-looking, I hope.The changes to The Virg have not just been cosmetic. Drastic improvements have been made in security. The windows that face the freeway are brand new, and muffle out the sound of traffic like I can’t believe. There is a new hot water system, and new appliances in the laundry room (we made that area extra-special -excited to share details in a future post!). Even the carports have been cleaned and brightened up.
And I haven’t even gotten into the apartments themselves! By now most of them have been completely renovated, and the changes have been dramatic. Looking forward to sharing the details here soon!
*All the good pictures on this post are by Ilse Helgen.