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Real Estate & Architecture in Los Angeles

Interview With Steve Jones Of Better Shelter

If you keep your eye on the local real estate market or simply like to check out open houses on Sundays, chances are good you’ve come across the work of Better Shelter. The brainchild of Steve Jones and Peter Zehnder, bettershelter’s goal has been to fill a void in Southern California’s housing market by providing affordable housing with a design aesthetic set in SoCal modernism (see their 1.7 Ocean homes in Costa Mesa for example).

The boutique real estate company based in Newport Beach first popped up on my radar when I read about this flip. Since then I checked out some of their other projects and they all impressed me just as much. Jones took some time out to answer a few questions about design, affordable housing and some of his local faves:

Take Sunset: What made you want to start Better Shelter?

Steve Jones: We started Better Shelter because we didn’t like what we saw in the market place and thought we could do better, most homes for sale were ugly! Better Shelter started in Orange County, where most new homes are master planned communities with little character. A whole audience of home-buyers were being completely ignored.

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TS: What do you like most about what you do?

SJ: What I like most about my job is being able to make a difference in people’s lives and communities by providing to them great housing at a reasonable price. Additionally, by restoring these old homes, we are part of the “green” movement. Restoring an old home is way more green than any new construction.

TS: What are you biggest design influences?

SJ: My design influence is Southern California’s long history of architecture and design – it is everywhere you look! Also flea markets. You would be amazed at the stuff people pull out of there. Tons of inspiration.

TS: What are some new trends you see design-wise that you are excited about?

SJ: Best new trend: victory gardens in the front yard. Rip out those lawns!

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TS: What are some of your favorite places to hang out on the Eastside of L.A.?

SJ: Viet Restaurant, The York, Café de Leche, Good Girl Dinette.

TS: What are some of your favorite architectural landmarks in L.A.?

SJ: They are everywhere! Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, Neutra, Eames, the list goes on and on. Los Angeles was (and is) a hotbed of modernism. It is akin to all the churches and cathedrals in Italy, it is a part of the city’s DNA. I am also a sucker for 1920s classic Spanish and courtyard architecture (I live in one). A few favorites: Schindler home on Kings Road, The Paramour on top of Micheltorena. I love driving through the more seedy neighborhoods in L.A., I always see so much potential.

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TS: Any tips for first time home-buyers in LA?

SJ: Look in Highland Park area, so many great neighborhoods and enclaves. Mount Washington area is beautiful. Now is a great time to buy! We are in the “prefect storm” with low prices and low mortgage rates.

For more pictures and information, check out Better Shelter’s blog.