You can find pretty much anything in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles: a pair of limited-edition sneakers, an obscure gourmet cheese, or a copy of The Da Vinci Code in Mandarin. What hasn’t been available for much of the past decade, as gentrification took full hold of the area, is a single-family house with any architectural appeal for less than about $800,000.

Thanks to a unique effort by the city’s planning department, a local developer, and a pair of preservation architects, that finally changed late last year with the opening—or rather the reopening—of the Maltman Bungalows, on Maltman Avenue, near the neighborhood’s southern edge. Built in 1926, the 17 bungalows line up in two neat rows on a moderately hilly piece of land less than 1⁄4 mile from a lively and walkable stretch of Sunset Boulevard. They make up one of the many “bungalow courts” built in and around Los Angeles in the early part of the 20th century.

Executed in a streamlined Spanish style by way of Irving Gill, with red-tile parapets and simple, elegant profiles, the one-bedroom bungalows measure roughly 700 square feet each. (There is a single two-bedroom unit.) Each has a modest front stoop, a tiny private yard, and an attached garage barely big enough to hold a Mini Cooper. The skyline of downtown Los Angeles, about 5 miles to the southeast, peeks over a nearby hill.

Designed as rental units by an architect whose name is lost to history, the Maltman bungalows had lost a good deal of their original charm by the 1990s. The same was true of other bungalow courts across the city. As Los Angeles grew denser during the past decade, however, and as apartment living grew more popular as an affordable alternative to soaring home prices and long commutes, officials in the city’s planning office started looking for ways to bring them back to life. The effort got a big boost when the city council, in late 2004, passed something called the Small-Lot Subdivision Ordinance. In certain neighborhoods already zoned for multifamily housing, the ordinance allowed single-family houses to be built—or existing rental units like the ones on Maltman to be converted to single-family status—on individual lots smaller than 5,000 square feet.

Though the ordinance was written partly to promote construction of new bungalow courts, it has been slow to catch on with developers. That sluggishness prompted planning officials to start encouraging a few open-minded developers to scout for existing courtyard complexes that might be converted into collections of modest single-family houses. 

Christopher Hawthorne is guest editor of this issue and the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times.



Drisko Studio Architects, Inc.
1624 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Kaitlin Drisko, Architect
Bob Knight, Architect


Structural Focus, Gardena, CA



TGP, Inc.
Landscape Architects
Encino, CA


Santa Clarita, CA
(Civil Engineering & Entitlements)

General contractor:

Civic Enterprise


Benny Chan / fotoworks






Westside Door & Moulding
Los Angeles, CA
Custom Manufactured by Paramount Windows


Wood doors:

Westside Door & Moulding
Los Angeles, CA
Custom manufactured by T.M. Cobb



Original (refinished by Astro Metal Polishing, North Hollywood, CA)


Original (refinished by Astro Metal Polishing, North Hollywood, CA)


Blumotion self-closing

Interior finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:

Cabinets Unlimited
Ventura, CA

Paints and stains:


Special surfacing:

Floor and wall tile:

Bathroom floor, shower, kitchen counters: “Revival” by Mission Tile West, South Pasadena, CA.

Fireplace tile by Walker Zanger

Resilient flooring:

Forbo Marmoleum(kitchen)