This Designer’s ’60s L.A. Ranch Had Only One Previous Owner: Her Grandmother

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

When interior designer Shelby Kass began making renovation plans for her new home—a 1963 ranch in the hills of the San Fernando Valley that had only one previous owner—there was a catch: That owner had been her grandmother, who passed away at age 97, so the house was brimming with family memories and nostalgia. 

Front door with curved room and window next to it
“To let more light in, we did a floor-to-ceiling side light with ribbed glass,” says Kass. “It lets so much more light into the whole house.”

“My dad grew up in this house,” explains Kass. “We were thrilled to be able to keep it in the family, but updating it would be tricky.”

With the opportunity to take it down to the studs, Kass would have to decide what direction to go in with the never-been-touched home. “I could have modernized it with an open plan and a white, modern ranch feel,” she says. “Instead I stuck to some original mid-century motifs, but with updated palettes and a cleaner, more modern attitude.”

Home with green exterior

The traditional ranch was designed for a family more than 60 years ago, so the floor plan was ideal. “We spent a lot of time figuring out how to widen doors, remove soffits, or add side lights to get more natural light in, which is very important to me,” says Kass. “But the layout is essentially the same.”

living room with tiled bar
Tahara’a by Marc Gabor, Tappan Collective.

Because she stuck with the boxy architecture plus millwork and materials that fit the era in which it was built, she brought in curvy furniture and funkier features to soften it all, add a bit more 1970s vibe, and make it brighter and lighter. “I got to play with color in a way my clients aren’t always comfortable with,” says Kass. “The house called for it.” 

Kitchen with purple veined marble and light wood cabinets
Kitchen with purple veined marble and light wood cabinets

The biggest transformation in the home happened in the kitchen, where she opened up the entrances and removed the soffits on the ceiling, “which immediately made the space feel bigger and brighter,” Kass says. From there, she found the countertop stone, a Calacatta Vagli Fantastico, which dictated the design of the rest of the room. “It had these cool pinks and purples, and we played that up with the pink pantry and the burgundy counter stools.” 

For the cabinetry, Kass knew she wanted a natural wood. “You see white oak cabinets a lot, but it’s pretty pricey right now,” says Kass. “Instead we ended up with white birch, which has the grooviest grain movement that I ended up just loving.”

Dining room with rainbow light fixture
The custom light fixture above the dining room table was “a labor of love,” says Kass. “I found the vendor on 1stDibs, and it broke multiple times in transit—but in the end it was worth it.” Arc Dining Table, Sun at Six; Dining Chairs, Lulu and Georgia; Pani Jurek Light Fixture, 1stDibs; Custom Curtains in Moonrise Clay, Larsen Fabrics; Zeus Was a Sexual Predator by Umar Rashid, Tappan Collective.

One thing that surprised even Kass about her own design? The way she kept finding her way back to original choices. “I ended up picking similar color palettes to what was already there,” she says. “The primary bathroom, for example, was always pink, and the secondary bath was always green.” 

Bathroom sink with purple veined marble
The powder room was naturally dark, so Kass leaned into that: “I wanted to do something really moody here to contrast the brightness in the rest of the house.” Zellige Tile in Midnight Port, Clé; Meritage Roman Clay Paint, Portola; Faucet, Phylrich.

But perhaps no room captures the spirit of its original counterpoint more than the powder room. “This was always a glamorous room,” says Kass. Think: shag carpet, silver wallpaper, and a full floor-to-ceiling mirror. “I kept the same vibes with really glam stone, dark zellige tile, and even a shag rug.”

Living room with pool blue rug
Curves are key to her design, says Kass, as they’re the perfect counterpoint to the clean-lined, boxy mid-century architecture. Custom Rug, Stark Carpet; Custom Sofa Upholstery, Manuel Canovas Cabris in Safran; Art by Luke Chiswell, Tappan Collective.

But Kass’s favorite spot in the home is not the bold powder room or the just-groovy-enough kitchen: It’s the family room. “I know it doesn’t have a wow factor and it’s not the room guests leave talking about, but I love the colors we incorporated, especially the curved blue rug that echoes the pool view outside,” she says. 

Living room with custom TV nook

Though the renovation involved redoing all of the electrical and plumbing for the entire house, Kass says the biggest design struggle for her was the family room’s fireplace. “It was originally covered in valley rock, which felt very dark and heavy,” she says. She wanted to keep the fireplace where it was to maintain the feel of the home, but do it in a cleaner, brighter way—and a way that could incorporate an unobtrusive television. So they used a thin brick tile and custom millwork around the TV. “I was hell-bent on getting all the bricks to line up perfectly and not having the TV protrude at all,” says Kass. Combine that with the fire codes for a working fireplace and, well: “The tile guys wanted to murder me,” she jokes.

Close up of tiled bar with wooden cabinets
Cool curves in the house carry through to the bar, a reinterpretation of the original mid-century built-in bar where Kass’s grandparents hosted friends and family. “The colors in here really play off the colors in the kitchen,” says Kass. Burnt Sugar Tile, Zia.

Back in the early ’60s, no family home was complete without a minibar. “My grandparents were huge entertainers, they probably had about 500 parties at this house, with my dad bartending since he was about 10 years old,” says Kass. When renovating, she replaced the mid-century bar with her own party bar, complete with modern marble and rich walnut “for a bit of drama.”

Bedroom with green walls and berry bedding
Kass knew she didn’t want an all-white bedroom, but she was looking for relaxing hotel suite vibes. “To keep things really calm yet colorful, we went monochromatic,” she explains. “It’s an incredibly relaxing space.” Grand Rug in Dusty White, Nordic Knots; Diana Bouclé Bed, CB2; Solid Mohair Throw, Hawkins New York; Ceramic Disc Surface Mount Sconce, In Common With; Shelter Limewash Paint, Portola.
Bathroom with wood soaking tub
Inspired by a trip to an onsen in Japan, Kass and her husband worked with a Japanese design firm to create a custom hinoki wood soaking tub. “I do see overlaps between Japanese and mid-century architecture,” says Kass. “There are lots of clean lines and boxy structures.” Capri Terrazzo Floor Tile, Cemento.
Bathroom with blush pink tile
Tumbleweed Tile, Fireclay; Faucets and Fixtures, Phylrich; Countertop, Caesarstone.
Closeup of wood soaking tub
Custom Hinoki Soaking Tub, Bartok; Virginia Sin Leggy Wall Hook, Lulu and Georgia.

The party circuit came full circle when Kass and her husband had their first gathering in their newly renovated home, to celebrate New Year’s Eve: “We had a huge disco ball hanging over it and it just felt right.” 

And as for the original owner? “I think all the time about how much I wish [my grandmother] could see it. She loved everything I did, and I think she would love it so much,” says Kass.

The Goods

Ceramic Disc Surface Mount

In Common With

Diana Boucle Bed


Virginia Sin Leggy Crossed Wall Hook

Lulu and Georgia

Zellige in Midnight Port

Clé Tile