When it came time for editorial consultant Sacha Strebe and her husband, Troy, to settle down and start a family—they met backpacking—the compromise for Strebe was that the apartment would continue to showcase their time in other places. After finding a spacious rental in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood five years ago, the couple got to work creating a European vibe for themselves; their teenage son, Neon; and French bulldog, Cosmo.
They’d collected plenty of art for the home on their travels, but furniture was another story—and it couldn’t break the bank. “Facebook Marketplace has become one of my favorite things now since flea markets are closed,” says Strebe.
Texture Is the New Color
The Strebes immediately dropped the idea of changing the wall color (even with the most forgiving of landlords, painting can be a hassle knowing that move-outs are hard enough without having to turn the rooms back to basic white). Instead they disrupted the sterile shade using an array of different textures, all in black, white, and neutral tones. Think: plush throw blankets by Bed Threads, a polished chrome-framed sofa, matte metal tables, and even a slab of wood from Strebe’s native Australia found at an Arizona flea market. “Who knows how it got there?” she muses.
In theory a gallery wall above said sofa would be the sensible choice for the roving collectors, but the space is much more clearly defined by one large-format, abstract work by artist Holly Addi. “You would think it might close the place in,” says Strebe, “but it makes everything appear bigger than it actually is. It’s an Alice in Wonderland effect.”
Underfoot is a concrete floor in lieu of the carpeting typically found in Los Angeles rentals—and it’s the only one in the building. “It was funny; when we moved in, the landlord was apologizing and saying the building will fix the concrete and install carpet,” she recalls. “We were like, ‘Wait, no!’” Leaving it exposed keeps the color palette subdued and any cleanup efforts easy.
Something Old, Something New, Something Burned, Something Askew
Visiting antiques fairs and secondhand markets, either online or IRL, became a weekend activity for the family. An oil painting, set in a gilded frame in between the dining room windows, may look as if it cost thousands, but it was really a $300 purchase at an antiques store in downtown L.A. “It changed the feel of the whole place,” says Strebe.
The couple were careful to avoid anything too “sticky”—meaning an overabundance of modern or minimalist peg-leg furniture that’s trendy right now. To create a balance, for every detail like the clean-lined dining chairs, there’s a unique piece such as the dinner table with an interlocking bottom. Alternatively, back in the living area, the low-slung hunting chairs warm up the contemporary marble coffee tables.
Prior to being discovered at a local flea market, the stump in the corner had been through a fire and was left with a scorched marking up the side of it. Its blackened patina faces outward, a proud mark of character. Another sculptural block of wood’s awkward shape didn’t lend it tons of purpose—until inspiration struck. “My husband put a small leg in it to prop it up,” Strebe points out. “Now we use it as an ottoman.”
But just as Icarus flew too close to the sun, groupings of decorative objects could quickly end up appearing cluttered. Luckily Strebe holds herself to a rule for vignettes: about three figures stay the same, while the rest must be swapped out regularly. “The edit is the hardest part for me, so I confirm each object I leave out is meaningful,” she says. “It’s always in flux, though; I’m constantly moving things and searching for what to rearrange on the coffee table or on a stack of books.”
A (Bed)room of One’s Own
For the most important area of the house, the primary bedroom, the couple waited until last year to splurge, but on function. “We spent a lot of our $6,000 budget on the bed and the bookshelf,” admits Strebe—$4,000 and $1,500, respectively. Both were crafted by a friend, and the platform bed has extra width on either side to function as nightstands. Each element was exceptionally heavy (and required an entire team of people to lug everything up to the second-floor unit). “I fell in love with this idea of creating an environment around a bed and making sure we prioritize sleep,” says Strebe. Money well spent if you ask us.
My biggest splurge: Our custom birch timber bed frame! But oh so worth it.
Favorite local design source: There are so many good ones in L.A., and a lot of them are antiques or vintage stores, but I love Galerie Half, Nickey Kehoe, Pop-Up Home, and Big Daddy’s Antiques (although it is very $$$).
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