A moss green 1972 Mercedes 280 SEL rounds the corner and turns into the driveway of a charming 1920’s Spanish Colonial Revival house in Rancho Park. Matching green hub caps lined in chrome and white wall tires accent this pristine vintage ride. The car embodies the aesthetic of it’s owner’s company: sleek, vintage, and authentic. Jack Byron steps out, and welcomes us to California English’s latest property.
A boutique real estate company based in Los Angeles, California English combines the sophisticated aesthetic of contemporary London design with the classic bones of California Spanish architecture. Husband and wife team Jack Byron and Charlotte Barraclough originally hail from England but have realized their appreciation for timeless and classic design in reworking Southern California homes. They purchase houses in the Los Angeles area, inject their signature design flair and put them back on the market.
Bryon walks into the living room of the recently completed project. Staged in modern decor with framed graphic artwork, a zebra print rug, two leather stitched butterfly chairs and a wrought iron light fixture discovered in a salvage yard, the integrity of the 1920’s architecture nevertheless shines through. A fresh coat of paint and treated wood floors accents the original ceramic tile that frames the fireplace. The vaulted beams in the living room, a trademark of California architecture draw the eye upward and creates an airiness of the interior space.
He carefully draws the blinds, gently tugging the cord over each panel and meticulously winding a nautical knot. Stepping back from the original windows, he looks around the expansive entry and living room. In a gentle British accent, he explains that the home had “belonged to the same person for 35 years. It wasn’t in bad condition [but it] just looked tired in the sense that no one had thought about how it looked for a really long time. I wanted to bring out the original proportions of the room,” he explained. “I wanted to restore the original Spanish features; [my goal was] bringing out the original aesthetic of the building that had been lost in previous decades.”
The kitchen has been expanded from a small dinette; the original layout was impractical, so they opened it up. Updated with slabs of Italian granite, chrome hardware, and state of the art appliances, the once-forgettable kitchen is now extremely practical. The signature stamp of California English is that form follows function. Coming from England, the couple is accustomed to interiors with smaller square footage that demands an efficient layout; an efficient floor plan makes more of an impact than square footage. For every project, Byron and Barraclough must consider how a potential owner will live in the space: how can it become more rational?
Before he moved to California, Byron worked as the director of Spink Property, a developer in England. Now free from the constraints of England’s ardent construction regulations, he looks forward to future projects of ground-up restoration. Byron cites Scandinavian design as his biggest influence: the color palette and use of materials inform his architectural approach. He is not formally trained as an architect, but has an impressive resume: he has worked alongside the likes of Sir Norman Foster, Philippe Starck and Zaha Hadid.
California English strives to make each project as unique as its future owners. Architectural integrity is paramount. “I think that’s what makes us different. We wanted to do something that is keeping with the sympathy of each building. Everybody’s home is different.” California English designs homes not houses. This attitude separates California English from the typical house flipper: they do not seek “fixer-uppers” to tear down and replace with homogenous suburban tract houses. Instead, they find architectural gems and reinvigorate the original integrity of the space with modern updates.
Looking ahead to future projects, California English anticipates collaborations with young architects based in Southern California and abroad. With each project fostering emerging talent, the collaboration will also inspire fresh ideas and make each project unique, bringing an English touch to California.