Who: Leanna Lin and Luis Jaime
Where: Eagle Rock, Los Angeles
Style: Colorful maximalist and subdued minimalist tendencies with eclectic furnishing
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In Northeast Los Angeles, Leanna Lin's name is equated with all things cute, thanks to her nine-year-old eponymous store on Eagle Rock Boulevard, Leanna Lin's Wonderland Gift Shop + Art Gallery, which is the destination for gifts for all ages in the area. It's easy to see why. The former fashion designer's turquoise storefront features rotating exhibits of emerging and established West Coast–based artists (Paul Frank being one of them), a very Pop-inspired inventory of toys, stationery, and books, and new and vintage home furnishings and jewelry. Here, Tokidoki mystery boxes, Darth Vader sterling-silver earrings, neighborhood-themed mugs, and a '70s Lucite grape sculpture all have a home.
Lin's vibrant aesthetic — colorful, patterned dresses are her uniform (and often brightly tinted tresses to match) — extends to the midcentury hillside home she shares with husband Luis Jaime, a graphic designer, and their beloved dogs. "I tease Leanna that the house is actually an extension of her store," says Jaime, who first met Lin when they both attended L.A. County High School for the Arts.
"I feel bad because this isn't how it was supposed to be, but I just keep collecting," she says. "Luis is very minimal and modern, and I love that style, but I just love 'things,' and I keep adding a little kitsch here and…"
"A lot of color," Jaime adds, smiling, while seated in their living room, which is rich in patterns as well. To the left of their brick fireplace is an eye-catching gold fan-patterned wall that greets visitors as they enter. Across the room, an enviable set of connected Eames black-wire chairs are placed against a window with loud but fun CB2 banana leaf curtains, creating a wonderful pattern-play composition that perfectly captures their design tastes in one shot: the curtains, bright and jovial, are very Lin, while the Eames set, geometric and precise, is Jaime.
Positioned in the middle of the room, their dusty blue-colored sofa is bedecked in textiles — an example of her bohemian flair — and framed by a pale pink wall behind it. "Yeah, well, this [wall] used to be orange," she says, "but I've been wanting to tone down the living room, so we're slowly trying to."
When asked why, the experienced gallery owner responds, "For the art collection to stand out." Many of the same artists Lin has exhibited grace the walls of their home: illustrator Genevieve Santos, paper artist Crowded Teeth (Michelle Romo), and folk artist CJ Metzger, to name a few. They are joined by pieces from Ellen Surrey, Loris Lora, and Sean Chao, which were purchased from another haven for local artists and entertainment industry illustrators, the gallery Nucleus in Alhambra.
An art piece in itself is the magenta midcentury modern–inspired front door Lin designed, featuring three rippled-glass square windows. A source of inspiration for the door's design actually comes from pop culture: the front door of Hugh Grant's character's home in 2002's About the Boy. The paint color is from Dunn-Edwards, the couple's go-to brand, selected to match a dark shade of "not too girly but cool" pink that Italian brand Alessi uses for its line of chic streamlined products, which they are huge fans of.
The two are also inspired by Palm Springs: "We used to go almost every year for Modernism Week. We [would] do a lot of research and take photos when we were [first] working on the house and the fencing," Lin shares. "We would look at architecture, and that's kind of how we get ideas."
In describing how they work together, from designing their home to developing branding for her store, she says, "I'm more like a 'fast-free' designer. I don't agonize or analyze as much. I want to speed up the process, whereas Luis is very detailed oriented."
"She starts off with the design," he interjects, "and I'll go in and refine it." As art director of the agency 88 Phases, which is a creative agency that's now branding for creative director Yu Tsai's latest adventure, Street to Kitchen Asia, Jaime is very meticulous in his approach. With the door, Leanna did the overall look while Luis took great care with choosing the handle. Actually, one subtle unifying element in the home is their hardware: All the other simple silver knobs on their doors and cabinets are the same.
Elsewhere in the living room is a mix of items spanning decades, from new semi-stacked tables and a stainless-steel multi-bulb ceiling fixture to '60s wall sculptures. "Anything that is vintage in our home is either from my store or my mom has gifted [it] to us," says Lin. Her mom, Mae Mei, helps out at the store and curates all the vintage merchandise.
In the adjoining dining area are orange stools from CB2, wood chairs from L.A. store Blueprint, and a wood-topped dining table, above which is a vintage half-dome light fixture from Sunset Bazaar. Jaime designed the table with help from his brother, who works in the automotive industry. The slick, baby-blue finish to the wood was accomplished — take note! — with auto paint. The cost to produce was under a thousand dollars. Lin says they've been more practical with their purchases as they've gotten older and she became an entrepreneur. "Do I really want to pay $5,000 for a dining room?" An added benefit of having their table custom-made is having one the exact color and dimensions they wanted.
Through the sliding door of the kitchen is their backyard, which has "vacation getaway" written all over it: a shaded lounge area with different-colored woven and metal vintage chairs, chic yard decor and planters from Potted and Arora Boheme in Atwater Village, a sculptured bowl water feature at the far end of the yard (but it's all about the calming sound of it), and a landscaped hill of native plants, all enclosed by corrugated steel fencing with wood framing.
The fencing is inspired by the fencing at a charming cottage they stayed in at the Carneras Resort in Napa. Of course, while very stylish — "everything we do is probably more for aesthetics," admits Lin — the steel comes with its own challenges. For privacy, it's ideal, offering full coverage, but the steel reflects light, and on a sunny day, it gets quite hot. "When the landscapers came in, they had to be very careful of what plants they put in" along the fencing because of this fact.
Another favorite piece of art is a Brutalist copper wall sculpture by Nikka Fremel that matches the one in their living room, both acquired by Lin's mother. Also hanging about in the yard (and inside their home) are strings of charms and dancing mobiles collected during Lin and Jaime's many travels together, each with their own story.
Back inside, their three bedrooms each have a different personality, as they serve different functions. The first door on the left through their hallway, which has a wood curio cabinet full of collectible figures, is Lin's office slash guest room, with a pink feature wall. More art and figurines populate the walls and packed bookcase, mostly featuring playful girl characters. Her other furnishings are very work-friendly: her office chair, metal desk, and female dress form are all on wheels, thus it's easy for her to change the room's layout (especially for guests) with ease, and roll from the bookcase to desk and back again throughout the day.
Jaime's office is next door, and it is a space that feels untouched by Leanna Lin's Wonderland vibe. While her workspace consists of a compact West Elm fluorescent green desk with a two-toned chair, his consists of two large stainless-steel tables from IKEA, positioned to create a spacious corner workspace, with a black Eames ribbed rolling chair, in line with his admiration for classic, clean design. The steel desk tables are not a choice you see every day, and Jaime admits they tend to feel quite cold to the touch on chillier days and welcomed on the hotter ones, but they "looked so cool." The room even has metallic blinds to match, and above his desks are floating wood shelves from IKEA.
Finally, the couple's bedroom is where the mood shifts from work to relaxation. The artwork in here is darker and moodier to balance the rest of the cheery (not girly) furnishings. Against a mint-green wall is their picture-perfect bed from Crate and Barrel, with an array of patterned pillows from Palm Springs, including ones by California treasure Trina Turk. Their wheeled white side tables with metal drawers are from West Elm.
Instead of closet doors, white Target curtains run the length of the far wall. And their en-suite bathroom is surprisingly and utterly minimal: practically all white, except half of the floating cabinets, which are mirrored, and a few aluminum accessories. But what they treasure most about the bedroom is the large window their bed faces, with the view of their landscaped hillside.
To be true, Lin and Jaime's home of passionately collected, gifted, or custom-made objects will continue to be in flux, as it has since they first bought the home in 2002. Who knows what bright paint color or patterned wallpaper or imaginative sculpture will dress their walls in another 10 years. What is certain is that after nearly two decades together, these two creative minds are clearly a perfect maximalist meets minimalist match, very much informed by their love of Los Angeles and its unique mix — and clash — of styles, influences, and people.
Author and book editor Teena Apeles is a collector of vintage pieces and untold stories. She writes about art, culture, design, activism, and history, and edits books on an even wider range of subjects. She is the founder of the creative collective Narrated Objects, which released the anthology Dear Seller: Real Estate Love Letters from Los Angeles, a unique exploration of the lives and homes of Angelenos, and We Heart L.A. Parks, an artful and interactive travel guide to the city's public parks.