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It’s not often we have the privilege of connecting with a designer who literally helped conceptualize a home from the ground up. Hearing from Sharon Taftian Emanuel, Principal Designer at Sharon Taftian Interior Design, explain—in both loving and more technical terms—how she worked with Boswell Construction and developer Legacy Estates LA to create this home (that a future family is going to love, like a lot) is inspiring, to say the least. The crew worked on this just under 6,000 square foot home over the course of 14 months and we’re happy to report all of their hard work paid off. Keep reading and you’ll find you agree.

Photography by: DustyLu Photography

How did this project come about?

The developers, Legacy Estates LA, wanted to break the mold and step away from all of the new Cape Cod style homes that were sprouting around Los Angeles. They gave me carte blanche to get creative and really take some risks that most developers avoid. I expressed my vision of a transitional home with a more modern feel, free of the heavy molding and coffers that have become popular amongst developers in recent years. Initially, they were a little nervous because no one was building homes that way, and ultimately they trusted me and handed me the reigns. It was a dream project.

What did the owners of the home express they wanted to see with the remodel?

The owners (developers) wanted to make sure we kept the home feeling luxurious. Building a spec home is a little tricky, because you don’t have a definitive end user, so there is a lot of speculating about what feels right and what will capture the heart of a potential buyer. I spent months poring over materials and drawings, making sure that everything was designed thoughtfully and with purpose. I don’t believe in putting anything in a home unless it has a purpose. I am a firm believer of the old adage “form follows function”. Materials and finishes were a critical part of obtaining the luxury that my clients desired. We used high end materials sparingly, allowing us to remain within budget, and using those materials as an opportunity to build a feature element in the prominent spaces of the home.

How would you describe the aesthetic of the new space?

A “modern traditional” aesthetic feels right. I intentionally avoided any heavy molding, casing, or baseboards. I also went for a hand brushed French Oak, with a natural stain, and painted all the walls white. I ordered the custom windows with a very thin, 5/8” mullion, and had them painted black. I love the look of steel windows, but they were cost prohibitive for this project, so this was my cheat in order to achieve the same look for a fraction of the cost. The spare, soothing background of the home allows for the modern element, while the custom cabinets, marble counters, and decadent lighting complements with the traditional finishes.

How did you decide on the overall color palette?

White, black, and brass were the foundation of the home. Everything else is a variation of those three, including the shades of grey and the mixed metals. Some spaces needed to feel light and airy, so I went with more of a warm grey and brass (the kitchen) and other spaces needed to feel rich and glam, so I went with more of a charcoal with brass accents (the basement bar). The master bath needed to feel serene and spa-like, so I went with white and cooler shades of grey.  Every space has its own story, but all within the same family of colors so that there was an underlying harmony and consistency.

We love how up close, this bedside seems one-hundred percent whitewashed, but when you look at the room as a whole, there are more colorful elements.

What was the biggest challenge you ran into with this project?

The biggest challenge I ran into with this project was the fact that it was a spec home and not for a specific client. I needed to design the entire house without knowing who was going to live in it, and it made for some occasional moments where I had to stop and consider, “Will anyone like what I’m doing?” Ultimately, I had to just trust my gut and move forward, and I’m so glad that I did because it turned out to be a dream home. The old house that was on this site was a very interesting home, with a cobalt blue exterior, copper cladding, and a cactus garden on the front lawn. We had to tear everything down and start from scratch, because this home had a basement and a substantially larger footprint.

I love the details in the ceilings. Is it in every room?

We installed a tongue and groove ceiling detail in the entirety of the top floor. The ceiling height upstairs was 14’-0” in the hallway and master, and 12’-0” in all the secondary bedrooms, it provided us with a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the height and add a really beautiful detail that draws the eye up and allows you to appreciate the airiness of the rooms.

It’s not hard to imagine a quiet morning in this chair, complete with a newspaper and cup of coffee.

Lighting seems to be a focus throughout the home. What were you looking for in the sconces, table lamps, and overhead lighting for this particular space?

The lighting had to fit into the same “white, brass, and black” story within the rest of the house. The fixtures needed to feel luxurious without being flashy. I avoided faceted crystals, and instead went for polished glass, acrylic, exposed bulbs, and aged brass. The chandeliers and pendants were each selected to compliment their respective spaces. Dark and moody for the bar, polished and glam in the living room, and simple elegance in the master suite. I looked for fixtures that would complement the fixtures and materials that were featured in each space.

For example, the honed marble in the master bath suite allowed me to add sparkle with a series of polished nickel sconces. The un-lacquered brass shelves in the kitchen demanded that the pendants complement them and not take away from the feature, so I selected a pendant with a milky white globe and aged brass detail. In the bedrooms upstairs, I had these beautiful 12’-0” ceilings to work with, so I took full advantage and installed large chandeliers that would fill the top half of the room and add a sense of warmth. I took cues from the finishes in the corresponding en-suite bathrooms and selected coordinating fixtures. It was all about creating harmony instead of just matching all the fixtures to one another.

What is your favorite memory of this design process?

My favorite memory has to be when we finally removed all of the ram board off the floor and paper off the cabinets. Up until the end, every piece we installed was immediately covered and sealed off. It was not until the very end, once everything was cleared and all of the subs were finished on site that I was able to really take it all in and see how everything I had designed came together. I took a long, leisurely walk through the home as if I was living there, and let it all really sink in. There is no better feeling than having what you picture in your head, translate into a finished home. Day I’ll never forget.

What is your personal favorite piece in the home? Favorite room?

The kitchen has to be my favorite room. I could live in that kitchen. I’m an avid baker and love to cook, so I put a lot of heart into the kitchen design. Every element was designed with the home chef in mind. There is storage everywhere, and all of the appliances are panelized or hidden behind the island, so all you see when you first walk in is the finishes. I designed the kitchen to feel like a furnished room that fits in seamlessly with every other part of the house. The suspended brass shelves in the kitchen are my favorite piece in the home. I had them custom built, and I got a lot of grief from everyone who had to install these shelves. The installation required a lot of coordination by a lot of trades, but they were worth it. The brass shelves make the kitchen, and I would do them again in a heartbeat.

I couldn’t agree more. How was the cabinet shade decided on? What about the pulls?

I knew that I wanted to do the suspended brass shelves in the kitchen before I knew anything else. This was such a strong and dramatic design element that I had to make sure all of the other finishes and colors complemented them and didn’t distract from them as the feature in the kitchen. Once the decision for brass hardware and fixtures was established, then I started to look at potential colors for the kitchen cabinets. I needed the gray to have a warm undertone to complement the brass, and enough contrast to stand out against the white marble on the counters and white ceramic backsplash. Having full door samples were critical in making this decision, because the finish color is never the same as the sample on the paint deck. I always verified colors both in direct sun and indoors, in order to duplicate the real conditions of the kitchen we were going to install them.

The bathrooms are also individually stunning—what inspired the tile choices for each?

The bathrooms were an extension of the modernized traditional aesthetic applied to the entirety of the home’s design. I remained loyal to timeless elements, such as

subway tile

shaker cabinets, and marble, but I filtered them just enough so that the same materials felt fresh without losing their timeless appeal. The guest bath upstairs is the perfect embodiment of the black, white, and brass blueprint within the home. I decided on a white [%1015%] with black grout, to tie in the black lacquered vanity. The black and white basket weave marble floor was a no-brainer because, to be honest, black and white marble always looks good. I finished the bathroom with a little bit of glamour by having the knobs for the vanity hand made with brass and glass rods; they look like jewelry they are so pretty.

(We adore the simple pop of color brought in with the print above the toilet.)

In the master bathroom, the stainless steel tub was the first thing I decided on, back before the house was even finished with framing. I dreamed about this bathtub for months and designed everything in the master bathroom around it. In order to keep the elegance of the master understated, I chose to install honed marble rather than the traditional polished marble. The subtle change in finish allowed the tub to stand out without being overwhelmed by the luster of a polished stone finish.

I also knew I didn’t want to do the same Calacatta and Carrara marble that you see everywhere, so I pushed the envelope a bit with a Bardiglio wainscot inside the shower. The steely blue balanced out the steel tub perfectly, and was the perfect contrast to the white floors and walls.

Do you have any tips to incorporating mixed metallics into your home?

If you want to play with mixed metallics, but don’t know where to start, try working in layers. Start with the metals and finishes which are fixed in the home, like door hardware, bath fixtures, appliance finishes. The metals in each layer should be the same, so stick to all stainless appliances, or all brass bath hardware. If you’re conservative and want to tread lightly with how far you want to go with mixing, this way your base layer is always safe and you don’t have to make a major investment in going back and “fixing” something you don’t like. The next layer, and where the fun comes in, is with the decorative hardware and lighting. My advice would be to mix in a different metallic with the decorative fixtures, but keep the finish on this “layer” consistent as well. Often times it’s helpful to find a light fixture or decorative element that has already combined the finishes you like, serving as a thread that ties the whole look together.

There also seems to be lots of accent seating—benches (built-in and stand-alone!) and cozy chairs and sofas. What inspired this?

I have to thank Natasha K. Designs, the stager behind the furnishings, for bringing my vision of the home into reality. She and I hit it off immediately. We collaborated on how each room should feel and what kind of furnishings would make the home feel warm and welcoming. A combination of beachy linens, kilims, and soft throws throughout the home makes each of the seating areas and nooks feel inviting and already lived in. I always feel like each space should have a “well-loved” or vintage piece of furniture or textile in order to soften the palette and keep the room from feeling too perfect. The natural patina and age lets people feel like they can put their feet up and get cozy because there is no longer the fear of putting the first scratch or stain on something, it’s already there.