Detroit native William Baker, founder of LAModernHome, moved to California from Chicago in 2005 after his international design company relocated him to the West Coast. After a short stint in Newport Beach, William landed in Los Angeles and immediately felt at home amongst the eclectic modern real estate, diverse cultures, art, music, food, and fashion of the most contemporary city on Earth. Because of his background in design, William has also always been inspired by architecture, most specifically, the famous mid-century modern homes of Los Angeles. In 2006, William bought his own mid-century modern (1962, John L. Pugsley, AIA) in Montecito Heights with Deasy/Penner as his agent. Excited by this process with Deasy/Penner and the energy in Los Angeles’ design scene, William joined Deasy/Penner as a partner, opening up his own office in LA’s legendary Silverlake neighborhood. Today, William brings that same level of design knowledge and sensibility as he represents buyers and sellers of architectural real estate throughout Los Angeles.
Similarly to the properties that LAModernHome and The Value of Architecture represent, William and Brian bring their own integrity, for both design and business, to the process. They both understand that buying a home is often the single-most relevant financial purchase in a person’s life, and they are sensitive to the needs of the buyer or seller, recognizing that this is a delicate time for them. William is inspired by LAModernHome’s alliance with The Value of Architecture, and the thoughtful service that these companies can give to the people of Los Angeles.
The Value of Architecture: So how’d you become interested in architecture?
William Baker: When I moved to LA from Chicago, where I had lived in a downtown Wrigleyville loft with a beautiful, modern design, I realized I always had an urban design focus to my aesthetic naturally. When moving to LA I discovered this new magazine Dwell, and saw that Los Angeles had the most pedigreed architectural property in the world. After that I was hooked, and started attending home tours, seeking out Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, Cliff May and others.
Additionally, I quickly learned that you can’t buy as much property in LA as in Chicago. The great thing about mid-century modern though, is its’ great utilization of space, with seamless transitions between inside and out. For example, my house in Chicago was three times the size of my house in LA, but my house here has three distinct outdoor spaces in the design.
Mid-century modern appeals to me aesthetically but also, when it was first conceived, was designed for the masses—something small and affordable for everyone, given that it utilized the space so well. For my own home, because of its uses of steel, glass and wood, and blurring the division between indoor and outside so much, its’ vibe is of a treehouse.
TVOA: Isn’t that everyone’s dream?
William Baker: It’s definitely my dream. I love my house. It was designed in 1962 by John Pugsley, an architect who designed several significant homes in the Pasadena area. It doesn’t have the notoriety as a Schindler or a Neutra, but he designed other compelling gems in LA, and then in San Diego. It’s a small house but it feels bigger.
TVOA: How does the design of your home affect your lifestyle, your behavior and choices?
William Baker: I’ve been in this house for more than ten years and every time I come home I’m on vacation; for myself it’s a sanctuary. I don’t like a lot of visual noise and my house reflects that. When I get home at the end of the day it’s just me and my chocolate lab, Bodhi.
TVOA: Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
William Baker: I have been described as such. My house is only 1,500 square feet, so I also don’t have a lot of room for furniture. What I do have though, is nice—I like quality furniture, from my experience working in high-end interiors for such a long time. But I recently purchased a great turntable so I’m getting back into vinyl. Really, the only thing I have is my dog, and a few cars—I’m a big fan of German cars.
TVOA: And you just went through your own renovation. How’d that go?
William Baker: It was great. I wanted to make a commitment to this house; I had the opportunity to be highly involved in the project and make some cool changes. I wanted to make the house more open, lighter in feel and modern. When I first moved in I installed cork floors, which were period-correct, and chose grey walls, which were all pretty dark. In reimagining the space, I instead painted the walls a crisp white and brought in a light grey, bleached hardwood for flooring, and I opened up some rooms. We ended up ordering too much wood and I installed the remaining on one of the walls, which I think give that room a fresh energy. I completely renovated the kitchen, purchased new appliances and put in this awesome Gaggenau stovetop. The process took a great deal longer than I expected, but the good news with that was I had a chance to sublet a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice for eight months. It became a rewarding process.
This house represents all that’s great which has happened to me since I’ve lived in LA. It was the first house I viewed when looking for property here; I saw nearly fifty homes after it, but this one kept drawing me back. This is home. This isn’t a house I’m going to flip. Coming from the Midwest, not truly understanding at that point LA’s values, the purchase was a leap of faith, and I’ve been able to share that experience with others. That perspective is consistent with LAModernHome and the Value of Architecture. It’s consistent with the type of value that Brian and I bring.
TVOA: How so?
William Baker: Our value isn’t just in selling houses. Our value is deeper than that; it is helping people understand how to maximize the selling price of their house; how to design and decorate, for example. Brian and I are involved in the staging of properties before they’re on sale. We both have a great eye and not a lot of real estate agents do. For sellers, that comes into play when we advise people on this, because of our design experience, but we’re also homeowners doing renovations ourselves. I just completed my renovation and Brian is almost finished with his. You’d be surprised how many real estate agents in town don’t own their home. Brian and I don’t just sell it. We live it.
Real estate affects people’s lives. It’s important to recognize as a realtor that in the moment when someone engages your service significant change is going on in their life. At times the change is exciting for them—someone’s getting married or having a baby, perhaps they’re making more money. But other times it’s not a celebration; for other clients, it’s an unfortunate death or divorce. It requires us to be a steady, calm influence for them. Our goal is to not only give them incredible results, but also a great experience.
We recently were honored to represent the sellers of the 1925 Rudolph Schindler How House in Silverlake, one of the most significant properties in all of LA and produced a record setting sold result of $2,500,000.
We’ve begun seeing mainstream real estate firms now opening their “architectural divisions”. But LAModernHome and The Value of Architectural were created to function as dedicated specialists in the sale of unique, historic and architectural properties.
As Architectural Realtors, our fundamental goal is to raise awareness of the value of good design, and to assist our clients in maximizing the benefits of a design-oriented lifestyle.
By: David Plick