L.A. Insider: Landscape Architect Louisa Relia

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L.A. architect Louisa ReliaAustralian Louisa Relia tells us why the diverse and historic neighborhood of West Adams, L.A., is where she calls home.

Name, Age, Occupation: Louisa Maria Relia, 39, landscape architect

Neighborhood: West Adams, Los Angeles

Abode: A four-bedroom, two-bath California bungalow built in 1906

How long have you lived here? 6 years

What do you love most about your neighborhood?
Other than the access to the freeway, I would say the historical value. It's the first suburb built west of Western in 1906 so it was built primarily for the directors of Paramount Studios and Professors of USC. At that point it predates Beverly Hills. Then when Beverly Hills was developed all the wealthy people from our neighborhood moved to Beverly Hills. Ray Charles and lots of African-Americans moved in and it was called Sugar Hill, which it's still referred to by some.

Best kept secret in West Adams?

The Marvin Gaye House at 21st and Gramercy. It's a tudor house. That whole era of black artists in this area -- including Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire who grew up in my house -- is really special.

Favorite way to spend a Saturday night in your neighborhood?
To go to Pappa Christos on Pico and Normandie. It's a great Greek Deli and restaurant that is delish!

Do you know your neighbors?
I've lived in half a dozen countries and around the world -- Australia, China, Spain, USA -- and this is the first neighborhood where there's a nine block square that I know every single person or within two calls I can know them. There is always a poker game or a barbecue that I can get involved in. There is a heart here and I am part of a community. That I never felt before, even in Australia.

The neighborhood is historic, does everyone take the same care you do?
My neighbors will mow my lawn if they see it getting too long -- how great is that!. And because I live in this historical preservation overlay zone I feel like we are all thinking if I improve my home, it means we all have a collective shared value in that. It's not just about me.

If you own an older house, like many in my neighborhood, you know you are carrying the baton of history and love and stories. I know I am not going to live there forever so I want to keep it special as I found it -- and better if I can. I have three fireplaces in my home and stone and details from years ago and I want that to remain. Many of my neighbors have taken care to refurbish their older homes, which is nice to see.

You found a great house and neighborhood, how did you pick them?
When we looked for a house we wanted to be east of La Brea and north of the freeway before downtown, in that zone. And then we went around the areas looking for a fixer upper. It was cheaper because of those facts. What I didn't realize was with the house being so old so many things needed to be fixed, but slowly it's all getting done.

I wanted the history and being close to downtown and I got the bang for the buck as I have a huge, four-bedroom house that I could never afford west of La Brea. The California bungalow style of architecture is great. You might as well live it to the fullest if you are going to live it.

Read what other L.A. Insiders had to say about their neighborhoods.
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