How a Young Couple Infused Their Colorful Personalities into a Neutral LA Home
This house perfectly balances modernity with timeless elements.
Updated Sep 9, 2020 2:57 PM
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A 1930s home in Hollywood Hills with good bones and an even better celebrity pedigree sounds like a designer’s dream—and Joyce Pickens agrees.
“In true Hollywood fashion, the home was previously owned by legends Angela Lansbury and Vincent Price—it’s up in the hills above the Sunset Boulevard Strip with a beautiful view of LA,” says Pickens. “The home has incredible history and started with great bones.”
And while the previous tenants are definitely iconic, Pickens’ clients (and the newest owners of this 3,640-square-foot home) are impressive in their own right. Jared Morgenstern, who was the third designer at Facebook and now runs a startup, and Emily Luntz, who is simultaneously finishing her degree and working at Disney, are a young couple who were in search of a sophisticated yet fresh update for their new home.
[In the lead image: Petite Vertigo Ceiling Light by Constance Guisset, $1,562]
“When you walk into our home, there’s a beautiful yet simple nook that has panoramic views of Los Angeles and is the focal point of the entire home. This was the catalyst for falling in love with the home, and it became the starting point for style choices [when] decorating,” says Morgenstern of what drew them to the traditional-style home. “We wanted a bright, plant-filled space for welcoming our friends and family [contrasted] with modern and whimsical pieces.”
This idea is manifested in the details. An old edition of Alice in Wonderland greets guests as soon as they enter the home. A swing in the guest bedroom adds whimsy. And a den full of sentimental mementos—including memorabilia from Facebook’s office in 2006—is the heart of the home.
[In this image: Nickey Kehoe Rope & Wood Hanging Swing, $250]
Recent renovations to the home eliminated the need for a full remodel, so Pickens set about enhancing the house’s features to create a space that walked the line between timeless and young. The result? A neutral-filled home that’s calming and full of playful touches.
“The biggest renovations were to the fireplaces, powder room, and den. I always think the powder room is the perfect space to have a little fun and surprise your guests, so we wallpapered the entire space in Kelly Wearstler Crescent wallpaper and installed a stone bowl sink and countertop. The fireplace in the main living room was a little boring—a traditional mantle with grey stone that felt a bit like an afterthought. We ripped it out and paired it with a black slate hearth,” says Pickens.
We spoke to the designer to learn more about her latest project.
[In this image: Kelly Wearstler Crescent Wallpaper in Ebony/Cream, $592; Cedar & Moss Mira Light, $199; West Elm Metal Framed Round Wall Mirror in “Antique Brass”, $175]
What did the space look like before?
The house always had beautiful bones, but it lacked character and a strong point of view. Considering my clients are young professionals, we wanted to maintain the integrity of the traditional feel of the house while giving it a fresh, young, and hip vantage point.
[In this image: Lawson Fenning Double Cone Sconce, $525]
What was your design inspiration?
Upon our first meeting, my clients showed me a photo of Erin Fetherston’s West Hollywood bungalow. I love that space—so fresh and clean, but full of texture, which keeps it from being anything but boring. This was the basis of our inspiration, while [also] mixing in some more unexpected design choices such as the fanned light fixture in the vaulted ceiling living room.
Was there anything on the clients’ wishlist you prioritized?
The den was a priority—they wanted to take a less serious approach and create a bit of departure from the rest of the house. They wanted it to exude the feeling of a British pub or have a Soho House feel; a place to showcase their fun side. We focused a lot of melding our two styles in there.
How did you go about doing that?
Ripping out [the] existing kitchenette left us with a bit more room to play. The fireplace at the end of the very long space wasn’t exciting, so we decided to do something fun and fabricated a 14-foot fireplace made entirely out of steel to span the height of the black wall. The patina was a nightmare to get just right, but we finally got there and added a brass “eyebrow” to the opening for a bit of interest and detail. This thing was heavy and took a whole team of men to bring in through the side of the house.
Were there any challenges with the design?
The biggest challenge was the timeline: My clients had been living in a hotel whilst house hunting so they were beyond ready to get into the space by the time they closed. We needed to get key furniture pieces stat so they weren’t sleeping on the floor.
The second snafu was the dining chairs. They were back ordered eight months. Production kept having trouble with their quality control…thus is the world of furniture and interior design.
How did you settle on a neutral color palette?
The house is simple and structurally lends a nod to East Coast coastal; whites and blacks and brick, but with a few California staples [like] the white stucco exterior. I think the house itself dictated what I saw for the space. Fresh, bright, airy, and simple. A neutral color palette is timeless and so is this house.
Yet despite being so neutral and simple, it still feels warm and inviting. How did you strike that balance?
The key is the extensive use of texture, and making sure to incorporate vintage pieces. I can’t stress enough the importance of mixing the new and the old. In the living room for example, the antique Chinese door-turned-coffee table gives that old world feel, and the bentwood and cane stools bring texture in the form of a natural fiber. The vintage pillows bring sophistication and interest; I rarely ever use anything other than vintage pillows. They are expensive, but make all the difference in the world.
We started with a blank white canvas and then used restraint when painting, carefully curating to make sure each piece made sense. If it didn’t balance the room in some way or add interest and texture, it was a no go.
[In this image: France and Son Seven Globe Branching Ceiling Lamp, $849; Wisteria Woven Leather Dining Chair, $419]
Why did you choose to incorporate so many statement-making light fixtures?
I’m not sure it was a [conscious] choice, just a feeling. It was the perfect way to bring in some modernity to the space without fighting the existing architecture. I cringe when I see a traditional house staged with modern furniture—it just doesn’t work. I also had been eyeing a lot of these guys for a while now, waiting for the perfect project to use them. Because furniture is such an investment, it should remain pretty classic and timeless when it comes to the staple pieces. The places to have fun are in the light fixtures and accent chairs; I love a funky accent chair.
[In this image: Rejuvenation Stand Table Lamp, $303]
What is your favorite room in the house?
I love the living room and dining room a lot, but I think the bedroom with the black lacquered canopy bed is my favorite. The textiles on the bed and painting just felt so yummy and warm to me, and I was really happy [with] the way it turned out. It feels sophisticated but not “grandmotherly”, and the canopy bed was really fun to make. It’s a high contrast statement piece that I continually find myself adding in all my spaces. I think that’s becoming my signature look without meaning for it to.
Photography by Amy Bartlam.
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