This Renovation Brings a 1963 Design Back to Life


Text supplied by Levitt Halsey

The owners of the Pedersen House approached the design and development firm Levitt Halsey after seeing another midcentury home they had renovated in the area. 

The owners had lived in their house for over ten years, and while they loved its unique design they felt it was too small for their family of five. But after searching extensively for a larger home they had not found anything as inspiring, so they decided to bring us on for a major renovation.  


The house presented itself from the street as a relatively simple and modest structure in keeping with the surrounding homes.

As soon as we stepped inside, we realized that it was something special. 

Prior renovations had obscured the underlying architecture and it was sorely in need of repairs, but elements such as the glass walls, double height living room and steel open web trusses were intriguing and made us eager to research the home’s history and track down the original architect.

The signature on the oldest permit application we could find, which was from 1963, was for a “Donald Pedersen.”

After some sleuthing I located Mr. Pedersen, who worked for many years as an architect in Santa Barbara and is now in his late 80’s and living in North Carolina.

Mr. Pedersen told me that he designed the front section of the house, which was built in 1949, when he was only 14 years old. 

Following a stint in the Navy he attended USC architecture, graduating in 1962, at which point he designed the addition at the back of the house. Like so many USC grads at that time he was creatively inspired by Wright and other modernists, and he brought that inspiration to the renovation of his own home.


The home’s Mr. Pedersen’s first job out of USC was with a large firm designing the Anaheim Convention Center. That project utilized an open web truss system, which we are all familiar with now from commercial buildings but which was relatively new at the time. 

He thought it would be interesting to use the same system of metal trusses to expand his house, but to leave the trusses exposed as a visual element.

The current owners’ wish list included removing the incongruous elements that were left over from previous renovations, modernizing the systems, redesigning the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing all of the surfaces and expanding the master bedroom and bath to create a master suite.


The thin redwood members that were originally used to frame the window section of the living room are what give it that light, floating look, but they had started to sag and the weight of the roof was bearing down on the sliding doors in the living room enough to prevent them from moving. 

We designed a steel rectangle to enclose the sliders and allow them to move freely.  We also replaced the sliders themselves with new aluminum doors.


We have been especially proud of the belated recognition that Don Pedersen has received since we completed the project. 

Don is one of many Los Angeles architects who designed beautiful and innovative modern homes in the 1950’s and 60’s that went unrecognized or unappreciated at the time. 

One of the most gratifying things about our work is the opportunity to revive interest in these “lost” designs, and the Pedersen house is one of the most beautiful and innovative we’ve seen.


Photos by Brett Halsey