Stage by stage

When two Venice Beach architects own one house for 20 years, there are guaranteed to be some changes – albeit pretty slow ones.

The house you loved in your 20s may not make the best home in your 40s – then again, as with any successful partnership, you can grow and change together. Julie Smith-Clementi and Frank Clementi understand this well, having grown both their family and home from a one-bedroom bungalow to the multi-generational household they enjoy living in today in Venice, California.

As partners in the successful multi-disciplinary architecture practice Rios Clementi Hale Studios, you’d think Julie and Frank would be comfortable designing additions to their own home. But, as Frank explains, “architects are like cobblers – going barefoot while everyone around them wears shoes”.

Barefoot or not, at least they got off to a sprinting start. Frank recalls “the day we closed escrow in 1994 was the day Julie started demolition”. But then came the fast halt. A combination of total freedom and apprehension at that freedom drove the couple to test over 50 different ideas for their renovation before completing it in 2012 – a number that Frank admits “is ridiculous, really, for a 55m2 addition”.

However, after living in a construction site for two years, the impending arrival of their first daughter Emilia gave the Clementis a nine-month deadline in which to build a habitable home. A firm deadline. “It was bad enough that child protection services could have been called!”

Words Simon Bush-King  
Photography Undine Pröhl & John Ellis

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