This Real-Estate Agent Saw Reno Potential in a Stagnant Home—Now Its Value Has Doubled
Shrinking the pool was actually a game changer.
Published Nov 21, 2023 1:45 AM
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When Los Angeles real-estate agent Claire O’Connor asked designers Jesse Rudolph and Joelle Kutner of Ome Dezin to take a look at the circa-1960 Brentwood home that she had recently bought, Rudolph and Kutner admit they stopped by for selfish reasons. “We just wanted to see the house because we’re huge fans of the architect, A. Quincy Jones,” says Rudolph. At the time, the pair didn’t feel like they had the bandwidth to do what O’Connor was ultimately asking: restore it with a 2023 buyer in mind. But it didn’t take much for O’Connor to convince them to team up with her. As you drive up the private street and turn into the driveway, you can almost sense the temperature start to drop as you’re greeted by the 40-foot waterfall. “It’s like you’re in a microclimate; all of the plant life is very tropical,” says Kutner. “Then you turn and you can really see the house for what it is.”
Tall windows and large skylights frame the center of the home, which has an atrium feel to it. So it’s sort of shocking that, at the time O’Connor scooped it up, the property had been sitting on the market for a year. “It was not being properly marketed,” explains O’Connor, who runs O’Connor Estates alongside her sister, Sam. The listing photos didn’t showcase the beauty of the home, and the previous owners had decided not to do any staging—a missed opportunity, in her book. “Jesse and Joelle took the house to the next level,” she adds. Now on Zillow once more, the home has a totally fresh perspective and fresh price tag (O’Connor bought the place for $4.9 million a year ago and recently listed it at $8.5 million). Here’s how they nearly doubled its value.
Solidify the Staircase
Making wood the focal point of the home was a no-brainer given the material is a Jones staple. The question was, where should they spotlight it? The designers narrowed in on the staircase (an area that is visible from most rooms in the house) by wrapping the once metal-framed structure in oak.
Then as most things go during a renovation, the idea snowballed. “We took a lot of those forms and shapes from the stairs and brought them into the kitchen, bathrooms, and all throughout,” notes Rudolph. For the nearby dining room, the pair tasked furniture designer Ben Willett with building a table and chairs inspired by the home’s architecture.
Don’t Hate on Ceiling Lights
Overhead lighting is a necessary evil in a home as large as this—you need it to see properly. But to make it feel a touch more elevated, the designers opted for a mix of recessed bulbs and retro ceiling fixtures, like the chrome Joe Colombo lights that span the kitchen.
Welcome Guests Into the Kitchen With a Bar
One of the most impactful changes, in O’Connor’s opinion, was relocating the kitchen to the den and turning the previous cooking area into a more casual bar setting complete with an ice maker, mini fridge, and bonus dishwasher. “It ended up making the entire main level more functional,” she says.
The designers landed on travertine for the countertops and backsplash as a nod to mid-century design. It was also fitting given the house is only a short drive away from the ocean. “Travertine has a beachy vibe with the movement in the veining and the sandy color,” notes Kutner.
Mimic the Architecture Through the Cabinetry
The designers emulated the staircase’s right angles and cubelike form once more in the primary bathroom. “The vanity appears as this rectangular box from the sides, but then as you get closer you can see that the door meets the edge of the stone and there’s a finger groove to open them,” Rudolph points out.
The surface is topped with the same leathered Cipollino marble that covers the floor and shower bench—one of the home’s biggest selling points, notes O’Connor. “Everyone who looks around the house comes back downstairs with their jaw on the floor after seeing it. We view so many generic houses, so it’s refreshing to see bold choices,” she says.
Show Buyers Where to Sit, Sleep, and Style Their Belongings
Another refreshing detail that’s bound to attract buyers is the custom built-ins. Putting themselves in the shoes of a potential owner, the designers filled an awkward corner in the guest bedroom not with furniture but with a super-functional reading nook. “And it’s large enough that if someone wants to sleep there, they could,” notes Kutner.
The designers also asked themselves questions like: Where is someone going to watch TV? How will they hide the cords? So in the new den, which the previous owners had arranged as a bedroom, they clad the wall in storage with room for a seamless-looking Frame TV in the center. “The window facing out to the backyard perfectly frames the waterfall, which creates such a special ambience,” says O’Connor.
Make Way for Grass
When it came to revamping the outdoor space, they focused on deleting—not adding—things. “The pool previously took up the entire backyard, so we took it down by half,” says Rudolph. While it’s not all that suitable for swimming laps anymore, it’s prime for lounging: The designers incorporated a raised ledge around the perimeter that doubles as seating. And from O’Connor’s perspective, shrinking the pool doesn’t have a negative impact on the value of the house. “I felt it was important to add a grassy area in the backyard, as Brentwood is a family-oriented place and the home is perfect for a family and for entertaining guests,” she says.