Best laid plans

Building a home from the ground up

Building a home from plans is a lot like going through development.

“When you buy a lot with plans, you become the producer and the script evolves,” says Winston Cenac of Bulldog Realtors in Venice.

And, just like the movies, bringing those plans to fruition can be the architectural equivalent of development hell.

“I could get an Academy Award easier than I could get a permit,” says Jane Schore of Coldwell Banker.

There’s a lot of charm in starting from scratch. Anyone can score a Fendi Spy bag, but it’s the precious few who can commission a Marmol-Radziner or Patrick Tighe to call their own.

However, even when money is no object, the tremendous investment of stress and time can be enough to make you want to fast-track to production.

Pre-approved plans can come from speculative builders who work with an architecture firm. Others are “best-laid plans” — ones in which spiraling costs, a new baby, divorce or simply a change of heart made them undesirable to their original owners. According to Brian Linder, a licensed architect and an agent at Keller-Williams Realty, these deals can save you about 18 months of hassle.

However, one person’s love nest may be a deathtrap to another buyer’s newborn. And once plans are approved by the city’s Dept. of Buildings and Safety, it’s very difficult to make changes; swapping a bedroom for a bathroom can add months to the process.

Also, it’s not for dabblers: Frank Langen, an agent with deasy/penner & partners, says all hands-on development projects should be reserved for “real estate junkies” and creative types who have chunks of downtime between projects.

Production designer Phil Messina and his wife, set decorator Kristen Messina, are the latter. “The idea of designing and building our own home has always been attractive to us,” says Phil Messina, who designed an oceanfront home in Venice Beach for himself and his wife using modules from green prefab developer LivingHomes.

However, now that they’re spending long days building an entire casino for “Ocean’s Thirteen,” building off-hours has lost its appeal. Their plans are now on the market — and they’re free with purchase of their Venice lot.

418 Rialto Ave., Venice

1651 N. Marmont Ave.,West Hollywood Hills

418 Rialto Ave.
1651 N. Marmont Ave.
West Hollywood Hills
A 1908 beach bungalow is sold as a teardown and comes with plans for a high-end contemporary residence designed by Santa Monica architect David Hertz. The plan includes three bedrooms and 2.5 baths, family room/office, plus an open kitchen, dining room and media room surrounding a central courtyard on the main floor.
Listing price: $1.295 million
Contact: Frank Langen, deasy/penner & partners
An existing home with guesthouse and pool, sold with plans for a 4,900 sq.ft. glass house with four bedrooms and 3.5 baths, plus an additional 1,000 sq.ft. basement to house a media room, lounge and wine cellar. Design by architects Natalya Kashper, Arnold Rivera and Michael Piper utilizes the site’s outdoor space and views.
Listing price: $2.395 million
Contact: Jane Schore, Coldwell Banker
Hollywood Hills

422 Rialto Ave., Venice

2215 Ocean Front Walk, Venice

422 Rialto Ave.
2215 Ocean Front Walk
Two-bedroom, one-bath Craftsman bungalow, sold with plans and permits for a 2,700 sq. ft. contemporary two-story home designed by Venice architect Robert Thibodeaux. Ready for immediate construction.
Listing price: $1.249 million
Contact: Winston Cenac
Bulldog Realtors
Messina designed this green-friendly “LivingHome” with architect Ray Kappe. Plans for a 3,200 sq. ft. four-bedroom, four-bathroom house include a study/office, a studio with a private entrance, a roof garden, decks and parking for four cars.
Listing price: $2.32 million
Contact: Peter Lee
Venice Properties
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