They say nobody wants to turn into their parents, but they should also say nobody wants to live in their parents' home's evil twin. I grew up in pre-Kardashian Calabasas, California, which is another way of saying I grew up in the suburbs. My family's singular style at the time was midcentury-meets-the-eighties-meets-California-Ranch. This means there were some incongruent pairings, like the Florence Knoll credenza "matched" with a mint-green velvet living room set, and the flooring was suitably schizophrenic — the entryway was slate, the kitchen floor was vinyl, and carpeting ruled the day in every bedroom. I think the carpet was forest green? I know it was a look.
Don't get me wrong; my parents lived stylishly for the times. My dad has an artist's eye for color; my interior designer aunt has impeccable taste and regularly gifted us with incredible furniture (Mies van der Rohe daybed, I'm looking at you); and my mother had a playfully rebellious streak that inspired her to purchase a cotton linen palm tree that did double duty as a lamp. (My sister and I are currently waging a silent war over who'll get this wacky eighties-style family heirloom.) But the house itself, with its cottage cheese ceilings, wall-to-wall carpeting and aluminum sliding glass doors is a hard no.
So when my husband and I went house hunting for a home in Los Angeles, there were certain criteria.
The home had to have a view, outdoor spaces, lots of light, hardwood floors, and, most importantly, character. I knew we'd found it when I stumbled on a gabled 1920s house that needed a ton of work. The walls were painted a dark putty, and someone who'd lived here back in the day was clearly a carpentry hobbyist with way more enthusiasm than ability.
Like a lot of homes in the hilly Silver Lake neighborhood, ours is built with the living room, dining room, and kitchen on the top floor and bedrooms below. For some reason we call these areas "Uptown" and "Downtown" — an in-joke with origins I no longer remember. Suffice it to say, when we bought the house, downtown was a disaster. It was essentially a subfloor of roughhewn pine and a warren of unpermitted "rooms" suffused with a Silence of the Lambs-style creepiness. But the 1,200 square feet of untapped space with views of the garden, the sunset, and greenery was too much to resist.
In came architect friend Nate Lentz, now of HOK in Chicago, who pulled off an entire downtown redevelopment, which now includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a home office, and a hallway lit by skylights that go all the way to gabled roof. His colleagues helped me design wood built-ins, including a long vanity and dresser that I love to distraction. We also riffed on the built-in bookcase in the living room and created another in my office, and both uptown and down, pals Genevieve and Cy of Carter Design helped choose furniture and textiles that would tie it all together.
We kept the original wood floors upstairs and installed matching flooring below. Simply put, wood has a warmth you can't achieve any other way. I remember when my husband proposed to me at San Ysidro Ranch, in Montecito. We stayed in the cottage similar to the one John and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon in 1953, and it has these rich wood floors — the kind you hope will creak and spill a secret or two. All that delicious woodiness roots you to where you are. It grounds you. It calms you. It hushes the acoustics, it's beautiful, and it goes with everything.
Now our home is "done" with nary a shag carpet or vinyl tile in sight. We've filled it with midcentury and antique pieces that were either gifts from my aunt or finds that I've been scouring yard sales, boutiques, and auctions for since my early twenties. (The brass-based Milo Baughman dining room table is the favorite of all my furniture children — don't tell the others.)
The walls are hung with works by artist friends alongside masterpieces by my five-year-old. And the built-in bookshelves? Sure, they're filled with my own work, but the brag shelf that thrills me most contains books by friends: Gayle Forman, Eve and Leonora Epstein, Christine Lennon, Steven Kotler, and Carina Chocano.
As a result, our home feels warm, cozy, and alive. I love the views inside and out, along with the art, the books, and the furniture from friends and loved ones and all the memories they evoke. But no matter what I do, I have to remind myself of one essential truth: When my daughter grows up, she's going to hate it.