Before & After: Architect Pat Bernatz’s Reimagined House on the Hill in East LA

Architect Pat Bernatz first showed up on my radar back in 2020, when I came across his pitch-perfect, trend-proof redesign of an old Arts & Crafts-style house in Los Angeles for a client. It is among my favorite projects I’ve written about, though his latest work, on his own home, may top it.

The restoration of his 1890 house has all the hallmarks of his prior project—quiet interiors, handsome window shutters, modest proportions, natural materials, a warm palette, all interpreted in an “Old California” style—but it has the added benefit of stunning views. Perched on a hill in Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods in East LA, the house was in ruins and scheduled to be torn down when Pat and his wife, Shannon, both native Californians, saw its potential and snapped up the property. They were intrigued by its architectural history (it was built in the vernacular style known as Pyramidal Victorian), enchanted by the surrounding lushness and views, and completely undaunted by the fact that it was, quite literally, a dump.

“It had been owned by the same family for over 65 years. They had been renting it out to a variety of families over the years. Sadly, it was in a serious state of neglect: no insulation, no foundation, laminate floors, acrylic windows, along with buried garbage and abandoned vehicles throughout the garden,” says Pat. “Amidst all of that we were struck by the century-old olive tree, palm and pepper trees scattered throughout the property, along with some of the original Victorian detailing and large bay window overlooking downtown and the Hollywood sign.”

After two years of sketching and planning, construction finally began. “We essentially had to demolish the previous kitchen and dining room due to structural issues. And we completely reconfigured that section of the house towards the view of the Hollywood sign and Elysian Park,” says Pat. Eighteen months later, their family of four moved into their home—now insulated, no longer crumbling, and with a cohesive design.

Below, Pat walks us through the renovation.

Photography by Yoshihiro Makino, courtesy of Bernatz Studio.

shannon gave birth to their firstborn, parker, on the first day of construction 14
Above: Shannon gave birth to their firstborn, Parker, on the first day of construction—”just in the nick of time,” says Pat, pictured here in their living room. By the time they moved in 18 months later, they had added a daughter, Inez, to their family.

pat designed the wraparound leather sectional and commissioned dusk design to f 15
Above: Pat designed the wraparound leather sectional and commissioned Dusk Design to fabricate it. “The new picture window in the living room is a great place to hang, especially when a storm comes in. It’s a wonderful cozy spot to hang with the family or watch the sunset,” he says.